Flexible electronics could find applications as sensors, artificial muscles

April 2, 2007
Flexible electronics could find applications as sensors, artificial muscles
Semiconductor ribbons with buckled profiles on polydimethylsiloxane surfaces that are functionalized for surface chemical bonding exhibit mechanical stretchability. Credit: Argonne National Laboratory

Flexible electronic structures with the potential to bend, expand and manipulate electronic devices are being developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. These flexible structures could find useful applications as sensors and as electronic devices that can be integrated into artificial muscles or biological tissues.

In addition to a biomedical impact, flexible electronics are important for energy technology as flexible and accurate sensors for hydrogen.

These structures were developed from a concept created by Argonne scientist Yugang Sun and a team of researchers at the University of Illinois led by John A. Rogers. The concept focuses on forming single-crystalline semiconductor nanoribbons in stretchable geometrical configurations with emphasis on the materials and surface chemistries used in their fabrication and the mechanics of their response to applied strains.

“Flexible electronics are typically characterized by conducting plastic-based liquids that can be printed onto thin, bendable surfaces,” Sun said. “The objective of our work was to generate a concept along with subsequent technology that would allow for electronic wires and circuits to stretch like rubber bands and accordions leading to sensor-embedded covers for aircraft and robots, and even prosthetic skin for humans.

“We are presently developing stretchable electronics and sensors for smart surgical gloves and hemispherical electronic eye imagers,” he added.

The team of researchers has been successful in fabricating thin ribbons of silicon and designing them to bend, stretch and compress like an accordion without losing their ability to function. The detailed results of these findings were published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry paper, " Structural forms of single crystal semiconductor nanoribbons for high-performance stretchable electronics," which is available online.

Before coming to Argonne in August of 2006, Sun worked as a research associate under John A. Rogers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where this project was first initiated. With the opening of Argonne's Center for Nanoscale Materials late last year, he was attracted by the facility's ability to enhance scientists' investigations in the properties of materials at nanoscale dimensions.

The Center for Nanoscale Materials at Argonne integrates nanoscale research with Argonne's existing capabilities in synchrotron X-ray studies, neutron-based materials research and electron microscopy with new capabilities in nanosynthesis, nanofabrication, nanomaterials characterization, and theory and simulation.

With the many resources at Argonne at his disposal, Sun plans to expand his research to focus on applications in other biological and chemical sensors.

Source: Argonne National Laboratory

Explore further: Captured electrons excite nuclei to higher energy states

Related Stories

Captured electrons excite nuclei to higher energy states

February 12, 2018

For the first time, physicists from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory and their collaborators, led by a team from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, demonstrated a long-theorized nuclear effect. ...

Electrons in the water

January 22, 2018

It's a popular tradition to throw coins into fountains in the hopes of having wishes granted. But what would happen if you could "throw" electrons into the water instead? That is, what happens shortly after an electron is ...

Superconducting X-ray laser takes shape in Silicon Valley

January 19, 2018

An area known for high-tech gadgets and innovation will soon be home to an advanced superconducting X-ray laser that stretches 3 miles in length, built by a collaboration of national laboratories. On January 19, the first ...

'Hot' electrons heat up solar energy research

December 21, 2017

Solar and renewable energy is getting hot, thanks to nanoscientists—those who work with materials smaller than the width of a human hair—at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory who have discovered ...

Graphene unlocks the promise of lithium sulfur batteries

December 18, 2017

Many battery scientists are interested in the potential of lithium sulfur batteries because, at least in theory, they offer a high energy density at relatively low cost. However, lithium sulfur batteries face a number of ...

Recommended for you

Researchers create first superatomic 2-D semiconductor

February 16, 2018

Atoms are the basic building blocks of all matter—at least, that is the conventional picture. In a new study, researchers have fabricated the first superatomic 2-D semiconductor, a material whose basic units aren't atoms ...

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.