It may look like toilet paper, but Flexiramics is actually a ceramic that can withstand incredibly high temperatures.
This new material was developed by the Dutch startup Eurekite at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. Flexiramics, as it's called, is being developed for use in printed circuit boards, RFID tags, and antennas. A 10 by 10 cm sheet of the material will cost less than €1, and circuit boards made on Flexiramics will be similarly priced to other circuit boards currently on the market. Despite looking like a tissue, Flexiramics has withstood temperatures of 1200° C, or about 2200° F for over 24 hours. The maximum temperature Flexiramics can withstand hasn't been determined yet because Eurekite's lab can only heat things to 1200° C, but it's safe to say that the material will hold up long after any circuitry attached to it melts. In fact, 1200° C is hot enough to melt cast iron. In the video below, you can watch Gerard Cadafalch, Eurekite's CEO hold the material to a flame.
What started out as an accidental discovery could be a big breakthrough in making flexible ceramics more flexible, heat resistant, affordable, and scalable for mass production. Gerad Cadafalch spoke about this serendipitous discovery in an interview with Ars Technica UK:
"The discovery of Flexiramics came as a surprise...It happens sometimes that you discover something you're not looking for. I took [the samples] out after an experiment and saw it was a flexible material, so my first reaction was—okay, it didn't work. But soon after I realised it didn't burn."
Flexiramics' incredibly high thermal resistance and flexibility can reduce the need for cooling in computers, allowing for more compact designs than ever. It is lighter and more flexible than any ceramic material to date and has the potential for use in all kinds of applications. We'll fight the urge to geek out about the possibility of ultra heat-resistant clothes that double as computers and focus on Eurekite's immediate plans. Eurekite plans to manufacture PCBs on the Flexiramics material for industrial and consumer electronics. The cost efficiency and high performance of Flexiramics could have Eurekite poised to make a gigantic impact on the entire tech industry. A startup could be taking a significant portion of market away from major circuit manufacturers and chemical companies, but Eurekite has a long way to go before the old guard should be too scared.
Although the material is able to withstand over 1200°C, that doesn't necessarily mean that its circuits will have a service temperature that high. The next hurdle for Eurekite will be seeing how much heat Flexiramics can protect circuits from after they're bonded to the material. Most flexible circuit boards have been bonded to plastic polymers since up until now since ceramics have been too rigid.
DuPont says that their Pyralux HT system "has a service temperature of 225°C, the highest service temperature of any flexible circuit material system available today." There is potential for circuits printed on Flexiramics to shatter our expectations of what we thought was possible, but until Eurekite makes and tests circuits on it, DuPont will hold on to that crown for the time being.
The future looks bright for the team at Eurekite, and it will be interesting to see all of the amazing inventions it may lead to, as well as what impact their success may have on the global economy. For now, all we can do is wait, and maybe daydream some more about those ultra heat-resistant computer clothes.