Research group creates bendable electronics that hold up under abuse

Jun 06, 2012 by Bob Yirka report
Molecular devices and electrical characteristics under flat conditions. Image (c) Nature Nanotechnology (2012) doi:10.1038/nnano.2012.81

(Phys.org) -- A team made up of researchers from the Korean Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology, Seoul University and Rice University in the United States have created a flexible test substrate with embedded single molecule thick electronic components that is able to withstand torturous contortions that would destroy any other electronic devices. The team, as they write in their paper published in Nature Nanotechnology, believe their tests show that flexible devices can be made using single-molecule thick electronic components.

Researchers all over the world are involved in trying to create flexible , a development that would allow for the creation of new forms of consumer products; bendable cell phones, displays that could be molded into a backpack or embedded in rounded furniture, are just some examples. The problem of course is that when transistors or other electronic parts are attached to a substrate, bending that substrate causes tension between the part and the substrate leading to cracking or tearing and subsequent failure of the device.

In this latest effort, the team chose polyimide for the because of its bendable properties and also because it doesn’t break down when exposed to high temperatures, which is important because when a material is bent or twisted, heat can be produced. When it is bent many times in succession, things can get very hot. They then created single-molecule thick devices with two terminals that work similarly to a diode using alky that self assemble into monolayers.

To test their concept, they created 512 such devices, each just 3 centimeters square, and then began subjecting them to various bending exercises. The devices were bent over cylinders and toothpicks, they were twisted through several degrees of motion and were even bent into a helix. Some were bent as many as a 1000 times in quick succession. All the while each remained connected through their terminals to a DC power source so that the researches could see if they lost their conductive abilities.

The team is happy to report that not a single failure was experienced during their testing, and upon closer inspection found that no degradation of the components occurred, proving they say, that the concept is sound. The next step of course will be to see if devices that require three prongs, such as can withstand the same degree of abuse. If successful, the team’s work may just lead the way to such devices as phones that can be folded up and put in a back pocket without fear of breakage when sitting down.

Explore further: Atoms to product: Aiming to make nanoscale benefits life-sized

More information: Flexible molecular-scale electronic devices, Nature Nanotechnology (2012) doi:10.1038/nnano.2012.81

Abstract
Flexible materials and devices could be exploited in light-emitting diodes1, electronic circuits2, 3, memory devices4, sensors5, 6, displays7, 8, solar cells9 and bioelectronic devices10. Nanoscale elements such as thin films11, 12, nanowires13, nanotubes14 and nanoparticles4 can also be incorporated into the active films of mechanically flexible devices. Large-area devices containing extremely thin films of molecular materials15, 16 represent the ultimate scaling of flexible devices based on organic materials, but the influence of bending and twisting on the electrical and mechanical stability of such devices has never been examined. Here, we report the fabrication and characterization of two-terminal electronic devices based on self-assembled monolayers of alkyl or aromatic thiol molecules on flexible substrates. We find that the charge transport characteristics of the devices remain stable under severe bending conditions (radius ≤ 1 mm) and a large number of repetitive bending cycles (≥1,000). The devices also remain reliable in various bending configurations, including twisted and helical structures.

Related Stories

IBM introduces new graphene transistor

Apr 11, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- In a report published in Nature, Yu-ming Lin and Phaedon Avoris, IBM researchers, have announced the development of a new graphene transistor which is smaller and faster than the one they i ...

An advance toward ultra-portable electronic devices

Jul 20, 2011

Scientists are reporting a key advance toward the long-awaited era of "single-molecule electronics," when common electronic circuits in computers, smart phones, audio players, and other devices may shrink ...

Recommended for you

Biomimetic photodetector 'sees' in color

Aug 25, 2014

(Phys.org) —Rice University researchers have created a CMOS-compatible, biomimetic color photodetector that directly responds to red, green and blue light in much the same way the human eye does.

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

baudrunner
1 / 5 (1) Jun 06, 2012
re: What do phasons look like?

Marrying this concept to the phason principle and we might have the potential to create permanent quasi-particle states in a solid material. I'm thinking, 'anti-gravity anyone?'.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Jun 06, 2012
Marrying this concept to the phason principle and we might have the potential to create permanent quasi-particle states in a solid material. I'm thinking, 'anti-gravity anyone?'.

Is that a quote from Pinky and the Brain? It sure sounds like it.

I understood all the individual words of what you just said - but for the life of me I cannot fathom how the order you put them in makes any sense (or how any of them relate to the article for that matter).
baudrunner
not rated yet Jun 06, 2012
lol! Okay, if you change the word marrying to marry then it makes more sense right? Geez! Nobody's perfect.

Unless you're talking content, in which case I suggest you do the research to find out what I'm talking about.

And don't knock Pinky and the brain, please.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Jun 06, 2012
Unless you're talking content, in which case I suggest you do the research to find out what I'm talking about.

Still confused...what the HECK has your gibberish got to do with bendable electronics in the article?

(As for phasons: What the heck do THEY have to do with anti gravity?)
packrat
1 / 5 (1) Jun 07, 2012
I can think of one good use for this if it could be expanded and done with printing tech and made into solar cells.. It would be great to have a sail boat where the sails could not only catch the wind but also supply charging power for a battery propulsion system.
No I don't have a sail boat but just think that would be a great idea.