Bendy sensors for flexible applications

US researchers have developed flexible electronic structures with the potential to bend, expand and manipulate electronic devices which could be used in muscles and other tissues.

The devices were developed by the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In addition to biomedical applications, flexible electronics are important for energy technology as flexible and accurate sensors for hydrogen.

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 characterised by conducting plastic-based liquids that can be printed onto thin, bendable surfaces,’ Argonne scientist Yugang 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.

Sun next plans to expand his research to focus on applications in other biological and chemical sensors.