Metallization of a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS)-based substrate is a challenge due to the difficulties in forming crack-free polymer and metal features using standard deposition techniques. Frequently, additional adhesion layers, rigid substrates, multiple processing steps (lift-off and etching) and expensive metal sputtering techniques are required, to achieve such metal patterns. This work presents a novel and rapid technique for the direct metallization of PDMS substrates using photolithography and electroless copper plating. The method has the advantage of not requiring expensive vacuum processing or multiple metallization steps. Electroless copper layer is demonstrated to have a strong adhesion to PDMS substrate with a high conductivity of (3.6 ± 0.7) × 107 S/m, which is close to the bulk copper (5.9 × 107 S/m). The copper-plated PDMS substrate displays mechanical and electrical stability whilst undergoing stretching deformations up to 10% due to applied strain. A functional electronic circuit was fabricated as a demonstration of the mechanical integrity of the copper-plated PDMS after bending.
Ryspayeva, A., Jones, T. D. A., Esfahani, M. N., Shuttleworth, M. P., Harris, R. A., Kay, R. W., Desmulliez, M. P. Y., & Marques-Hueso, J. (2019). A rapid technique for the direct metallization of PDMS substrates for flexible and stretchable electronics applications. Microelectronic Engineering, 209, 35-40. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mee.2019.03.001