Thermal therapy is one of the most popular physiotherapies and it is particularly useful for treating joint injuries. Conventional devices adapted for thermal therapy including heat packs and wraps have often caused discomfort to their wearers because of their rigidity and heavy weight. In our study, we developed a soft, thin, and stretchable heater by using a nanocomposite of silver nanowires and a thermoplastic elastomer. A ligand exchange reaction enabled the formation of a highly conductive and homogeneous nanocomposite. By patterning the nanocomposite with serpentine-mesh structures, conformal lamination of devices on curvilinear joints and effective heat transfer even during motion were achieved. The combination of homogeneous conductive elastomer, stretchable design, and a custom-designed electronic band created a novel wearable system for long-term, continuous articular thermotherapy.
Keywords: ligand exchange; silver nanowires; stretchable heater; thermotherapy; wearable electronics.