New technology to fabricate high-performance, flexible optical devices

August 5, 2014
A team of researchers at the University of Delaware has developed a way to fabricate high-performance flexible optical devices by combining chalcogenide glass and polymers.

A team of researchers at the University of Delaware has developed a way to fabricate high-performance flexible optical devices by combining chalcogenide glass and polymers.

Chalcogenide glass is a material commonly used in infrared optics, optical fibers, camera lenses and prisms. While the material is not flexible, it is fully compatible with polymers, which are flexible, allowing it to be processed and made into devices.

"The beauty of this technology is that the chalcogenide glass works with almost any type of polymer, allowing it to be used in many ways," explains Juejun Hu, assistant professor of materials science and engineering and lead researcher on the project.

Working with colleagues at University of Texas, Austin, and University of Central Florida, Hu's team developed an innovative design to exploit the fact that polymers naturally tend to deform (or bend) in certain ways, with some areas remaining rigid all the time.

By selectively placing the photonic device, comprised of chalcogenide glass, in the areas of the polymer that will not deform when bent, twisted or rolled, Hu is able to achieve a device with superior flexibility and high optical performance.

"Simply put, our design allows us to make the rigid material do something very flexible," he said.

New technology to fabricate high-performance, flexible optical devices
A team of researchers at the University of Delaware has developed a way to fabricate high-performance flexible optical devices by combining chalcogenide glass and polymers.

In laboratory testing Hu's device functioned well, even when bent to a radius of one-half millimeter over 5,000 times. The device experienced one of the lowest optical loss on record, almost an order of magnitude less than previous flexible .

Applications for the work include wearable devices, flexible consumer electronics and foldable portable power generation systems, even sensors that can be integrated on human skin.

For photonics applications, Hu's device can provide better power efficiency and sensitivity, while making it an attractive option for small photonic devices with cramped or unusually shaped spaces.

It also opens the door for photonics to be used in biomedical applications such as flexible electrodes to measure the electrical activity of the brain during an electroencephalogram (EEG).

Explore further: Thermoelectric generator on glass fabric for wearable electronic devices

More information: "Integrated flexible chalcogenide glass photonic devices." Lan Li, Hongtao Lin, Shutao Qiao, Yi Zou, Sylvain Danto, Kathleen Richardson, J. David Musgraves, Nanshu Lu & Juejun Hu. Nature Photonics 8, 643–649 (2014) DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2014.138. Received 26 July 2013 Accepted 27 May 2014 Published online 29 June 2014

Related Stories

Power arm band for wearables harvests body heat

April 12, 2014

(Phys.org) —A group of Korean researchers have turned their focus on supplying a reliable, efficient power source for wearables. Professor Byung Jin Cho of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) ...

Energy device for flexible electronics packs a lot of power

May 7, 2014

While flexible gadgets such as "electronic skin" and roll-up touch screens are moving ever closer to reality, their would-be power sources are either too wimpy or too stiff. But that's changing fast. Scientists have developed ...

Recommended for you

Magnetism at nanoscale

August 3, 2015

As the demand grows for ever smaller, smarter electronics, so does the demand for understanding materials' behavior at ever smaller scales. Physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory are building a unique ...

Study calculates the speed of ice formation

August 3, 2015

Researchers at Princeton University have for the first time directly calculated the rate at which water crystallizes into ice in a realistic computer model of water molecules. The simulations, which were carried out on supercomputers, ...

Small tilt in magnets makes them viable memory chips

August 3, 2015

University of California, Berkeley, researchers have discovered a new way to switch the polarization of nanomagnets, paving the way for high-density storage to move from hard disks onto integrated circuits.

Scientists bring order, and color, to microparticles

August 3, 2015

A team of New York University scientists has developed a technique that prompts microparticles to form ordered structures in a variety of materials. The advance, which appears in the Journal of the American Chemical Society ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.