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New Path to Flex and Stretch Electronics


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thin film transistor array covering a baseball

Optical image of flexible and stretchable thin film transistor array covering a baseball shows the mechanical robustness of this backplane material for future plastic electronic devices.

Credit: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) researchers have developed a technique for producing large-scale flexible and stretchable backplanes using semiconductor-enriched carbon nanotube solutions that result in networks of thin-film transistors with excellent electrical properties. Using the carbon nanotube backplanes, the researchers constructed an artificial electronic skin (e-skin) that can detect and respond to touch. "This technology, in combination with inkjet printing of metal contacts, should provide lithography-free fabrication of low-cost flexible and stretchable electronics in the future," says Berkeley Lab's Ali Javey.

To make the new backplanes, the researchers used a single-walled carbon nanotube solution enriched to be 99 percent semiconductor tubes. "The degree to which the substrate could be stretched increased from zero to 60 percent as the side length of the hexagonal holes increased to 1.85 mm," says Berkeley Lab's Toshitake Takahashi. The e-skin is made up of 96 sensor pixels, measuring 24 square centimeters in area, with each pixel being controlled by a single thin-film transistor.

"In the future, we should be able to expand our backplane technology by adding various sensor and/or other active device components to enable multifunctional artificial skins," Takahashi says.

From Berkeley Lab News Center
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