A new wave of flexible electronic devices could be made possible by a new design of silicon chip. US scientists have designed a new chip that can bend and fold.

The chips are made of concertina-like folds of ultra-thin silicon bonded to sheets of rubber, and their performance is claimed to equal that of conventional chips.

The stretchy chips can be used in smart clothing or also in medical applications such as building brain implants or health monitors, says the BBC.

The scientists are already working with a team to develop a smart latex glove for surgeons which would measure vital signs, such as blood oxygen levels, during an operation, using the new chips.

Another team hopes to make a sheet of electronics which could lie on the surface of the brain to monitor brain activity in epileptics.

And the team has also worked on bringing the size of the chips down and can now produce complete circuits just one and a half microns (millionths of a metre) thick, which is said to be hundreds of times thinner than conventional silicon circuits found in PCs.