In the last decade, interest in stretchable electronic systems that can be bent or shaped three-dimensionally has increased. The application of these systems is that they differentiate between two states and derive there from the requirements for the materials used: once formed, but static or permanently flexible. For this purpose, new materials that exceed the limited mechanical properties of thin metal layers as the typical printed circuit board conductor materials have recently gained the interest of research. In this work, novel electrically conductive textiles were used as conductor materials for stretchable circuit boards. Three different fabrics (woven, knitted and nonwoven) made of silver-plated polyamide fibers were investigated for their mechanical and electrical behavior under quasi-static and cyclic mechanical loads with simultaneous monitoring of the electrical resistance. Thereto, the electrically conductive textiles were embedded into a thermoplastic polyurethane dielectric matrix and structured by laser cutting into stretchable conductors. Based on the characterization of the mechanical and electrical material behavior, a life expectancy was derived. The results are compared with previously investigated stretchable circuit boards based on thermoplastic elastomer and meander-shaped conductor tracks made of copper foils. The microstructural changes in the material caused by the applied mechanical loads were analyzed and are discussed in detail to provide a deep understanding of failure mechanisms.
Keywords: life-time expectancy; mechanical and electrical properties; quasi-static and cyclic mechanical loading; smart textiles; stretchable electronics; textile/polymer composite.