Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A thin ribbon of flexible electronics can monitor health, infrastructure

17.08.2015

A new world of flexible, bendable, even stretchable electronics is emerging from research labs to address a wide range of potentially game-changing uses. The common, rigid printed circuit board is slowly being replaced by a thin ribbon of resilient, high-performance electronics. Over the last few years, one team of chemists and materials scientists has begun exploring military applications in harsh environments for aircraft, explosive devices and even combatants themselves.

Researchers will provide an update on the latest technologies, as well as future research plans, at the 250th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS is the world's largest scientific society. The meeting takes place here through Thursday.


Stretchy, bendable electronics could have many uses, such as monitoring patients' health and keeping tabs on airplanes.

Credit: Benjamin Leever, Ph.D.

"Basically, we are using a hybrid technology that mixes traditional electronics with flexible, high-performance electronics and new 3-D printing technologies," says Benjamin J. Leever, Ph.D., who is at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. "In some cases, we incorporate 'inks,' which are based on metals, polymers and organic materials, to tie the system together electronically. With our technology, we can take a razor-thin silicon integrated circuit, a few hundred nanometers thick, and place it on a flexible, bendable or even foldable, plastic-like substrate material," he says.

To allow electronics to be bendable or stretchable or even change their configuration after fabrication, the Wright-Patterson team has turned to liquid gallium alloys as an electrical interconnect material, Leever says. "While these liquid alloys typically oxidize within minutes and become essentially useless," he says, "the team has been able to dramatically reduce the effects of the oxidation through the use of ionic species confined to the walls of microvascular channels within the flexible substrates."

The result is thin, foldable material that allows the circuitry to fit into extremely tight spaces and even to be integrated into complex curved surfaces, such as an airplane's wing, or even a person's skin.

In aircraft applications, Leever explains, the hybrid flexible system can be used to monitor stresses and strains and report this information through miniature embedded antennas to ground crews or a pilot. The researchers also are developing the same approach to monitor pilots' health. This involves a biosensor system that can measure heartbeat, hydration levels, sweat, temperature and other vital signs through miniature circuitry. The system would be embedded on a flexible, wearable patch and would include an antenna to transmit these biometric signals to the pilot or a ground team. The patch will "breathe," bend and stretch, and will provide real-time measurements of metrics that indicate fatigue or potential cognitive problems, Leever notes.

Another military application the Air Force is pursuing is use of a flexible hybrid system in "bunker buster" bombs, which detonate after penetrating deep in the earth. Because of the system's toughness, Leever says, initial testing suggests that the flexible circuitry would remain viable and could detonate the weapon after surviving the initial impact of ground contact after being dropped from aircraft.

In the civilian world, Leever foresees use of flexible systems to monitor the conditions of bridges and other types of infrastructure in real time. He also points to medical applications, such as physical feedback for athletes as they exercise and real-time hospital monitoring for caregivers concerned about changes in a patient's vital signs. This type of monitoring dispenses with the need for the bulky electrodes and wiring that normally are associated with close medical surveillance.

"Overall, the military has the advantage of being able to move ahead with potentially higher risk research," he explains. "Commercial investors want a clear demonstration before making an investment. The military can pursue possibly transformational applications at earlier stages if we see a promising approach to realize and advance a technology's revolutionary potential. When we are successful, the commercial sector directly benefits."

Leever adds that the Wright-Patterson team is part of a newly created Department of Defense-led Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute, which was announced by President Barack Obama last December. Over the next five years, $75 million will be offered in matching grants to spur domestic development of flexible hybrid electronics manufacturing.

###

A press conference on this topic will be held Monday, Aug. 17, at 1 p.m. Eastern time in the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. Reporters may check-in at Room 153B in person, or watch live on YouTube http://bit.ly/ACSLiveBoston. To ask questions online, sign in with a Google account.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 158,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

Note to journalists: Please report that this research was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Follow us: Twitter | Facebook

Title

Development of flexible hybrid electronics materials and processes for Air Force applications

Abstract

By combining thinned devices based on inorganic semiconductors with components & interconnects that are 3D printed/additively manufactured on non-traditional substrates, Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE) can deliver significant size, weight, and power (SWaP) benefits without sacrificing performance. FHE are expected to impact a range of Air Force applications including: wearable electronics and sensors for monitoring airman health/performance; conformal electronics and antennas for maximizing space efficiency and reducing aerodynamic drag; and inherently more durable circuits that will withstand the extreme strain, shock, and vibration environments typical of Air Force missions.

Related to these goals, we are developing approaches to inject and print gallium-based liquid metal alloys into varied materials for stretchable and reconfigurable electronics. For energy devices we have demonstrated solution-processable approaches to fabricate organic photovoltaic devices on nearly arbitrary surfaces including PET and polymer reinforced polymer composites. We have also fabricated Li-ion batteries based on structurally resilient carbon nanotube-based electrodes that have survived thousands of flexing cycles. The presentation will also discuss the development of silver inks as an interconnect material for flexible Si CMOS ICs on elastomers. Finally, initial molecular dynamics based approaches to model the interaction of inks on various surfaces will also be described.

Media Contact

617-954-3971 (Boston Press Center, Aug. 16-19)

Michael Bernstein
202-872-6042 (D.C. Office)
301-275-3221 (Cell)
m_bernstein@acs.org

Katie Cottingham, Ph.D.
301-775-8455 (Cell)
k_cottingham@acs.org

www.acs.org

Michael Bernstein | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden

nachricht The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>