Transparent, 3-D electronics can be configured and erased like an Etch A Sketch
Washington State University physicists have found a way to write an electrical circuit into a crystal, opening up the possibility of transparent, three-dimensional electronics that, like an Etch A Sketch, can be erased and reconfigured.
Washington State University researchers used light to write a highly conducting electric path in a crystal. This opens up the possibility of transparent, three-dimensional electronics that, like an Etch-A-Sketch, can be erased and reconfigured. On the left, a photograph of a sample with four metal contacts. On the right, an illustration of a laser drawing a conductive path between two contacts.
Credit: Washington State University
The work, to appear in the on-line journal Scientific Reports, serves as a proof of concept for a phenomenon that WSU researchers first discovered by accident four years ago. At the time, a doctoral student found a 400-fold increase in the electrical conductivity of a crystal simply by leaving it exposed to light.
Matt McCluskey, a WSU professor of physics and materials science, has now used a laser to etch a line in the crystal. With electrical contacts at each end of the line, it carried a current.
"It opens up a new type of electronics where you can define a circuit optically and then erase it and define a new one," said McCluskey. "It's exciting that it's reconfigurable. It's also transparent. There are certain applications where it would be neat to have a circuit that is on a window or something like that, where it actually is invisible electronics."
Ordinarily, a crystal does not conduct electricity. But when the crystal strontium titanate is heated under the right conductions, it is altered so light will make it conductive. The phenomenon, called "persistent photoconductivity," also occurs at room temperature, an improvement over materials that require cooling with liquid nitrogen.
"We're still trying to figure out exactly what happens," said McCluskey. He surmises that heat forces strontium atoms to leave the material, creating light-sensitive defects responsible for the persistent photoconductivity.
McCluskey's recent work increased the crystal's conductivity 1,000-fold. The phenomenon can last up to a year.
"We look at samples that we exposed to light a year ago and they're still conducting," said McCluskey. "It may not retain 100 percent of its conductivity, but it's pretty big."
Moreover, the circuit can be by erased by heating it on a hot plate and recast with an optical pen.
"It's an Etch A Sketch," said McCluskey. "We've done it a few cycles. Another engineering challenge would be to do that thousands of times."
The research was funded by the National Science Foundation. Co-authors on the paper are former students Violet Poole and Slade Jokela.
The work is in keeping with WSU's Grand Challenges, a suite of initiatives aimed at addressing large societal problems. It is particularly relevant to the challenge of Smart Systems and its theme of foundational and emergent materials.
Eric Sorensen | EurekAlert!
Unconventional superconductor may be used to create quantum computers of the future
19.02.2018 | Chalmers University of Technology
Hubble sees Neptune's mysterious shrinking storm
16.02.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.02.2018 | Life Sciences