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Flexible Electronics

YUEH-LIN (LYNN) LOO
Princeton University

TSE NGA (TINA) NG
Palo Alto Research Center

One of the frontier goals in electronics research is to transform conventional fabrication processes to meet the demands of soft, pliant, and often easily damaged surfaces. Research in new materials and patterning technologies has enabled flexible electronics that push the boundaries of how electronics are made and used toward the possibility of incorporating electronic control and power sources into any object.

Unlike conventional silicon electronics that are limited to rigid wafers, flexible electronic devices have been demonstrated on plastics, paper, fibers, and even biological tissues. These flexible devices enable a wide range of applications, in fields ranging from energy sustainability to smart sensor networks to bioelectronics. Some specific examples are energy-efficient, stretchable lighting, lightweight photovoltaics, smart-sensing wallpaper, and dissolvable electronic implants.

To make flexible electronics that are compatible with delicate surfaces, low-temperature processing is required. This need has led to the development of materials such as organic conductors and semiconductors as well as advanced solution-based techniques that enable low-temperature processing. Thus flexible electronics not only enable novel applications but also promote the use of alternative manufacturing technologies, such as roll-to-roll printing for electronics. Because the materials, fabrication process, and applications are interrelated, the speakers in this session touched on all three aspects to provide an overview of the rich and exciting field of flexible electronics.

Antonio Facchetti (Polyera Inc.) began with a discussion of the materials development that has enabled the fabrication of optoelectronic devices, such as displays, circuits, and solar modules, on unconventional substrates, such as



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Flexible Electronics Yueh-Lin (Lynn) Loo Princeton University Tse Nga (Tina) Ng Palo Alto Research Center One of the frontier goals in electronics research is to transform conventional fabrication processes to meet the demands of soft, pliant, and often easily dam- aged surfaces. Research in new materials and patterning technologies has enabled flexible electronics that push the boundaries of how electronics are made and used toward the possibility of incorporating electronic control and power sources into any object. Unlike conventional silicon electronics that are limited to rigid wafers, flex- ible electronic devices have been demonstrated on plastics, paper, fibers, and even biological tissues. These flexible devices enable a wide range of applica- tions, in fields ranging from energy sustainability to smart sensor networks to bio­ lectronics. Some specific examples are energy-efficient, stretchable lighting, e lightweight photovoltaics, smart-sensing wallpaper, and dissolvable electronic implants. To make flexible electronics that are compatible with delicate surfaces, low-temperature processing is required. This need has led to the development of materials such as organic conductors and semiconductors as well as advanced solution-based techniques that enable low-temperature processing. Thus flexible electronics not only enable novel applications but also promote the use of alter- native manufacturing technologies, such as roll-to-roll printing for electronics. Because the materials, fabrication process, and applications are interrelated, the speakers in this session touched on all three aspects to provide an overview of the rich and exciting field of flexible electronics. Antonio Facchetti (Polyera Inc.) began with a discussion of the materials development that has enabled the fabrication of optoelectronic devices, such as displays, circuits, and solar modules, on unconventional substrates, such as 111

OCR for page 111
112 FRONTIERS OF ENGINEERING flexible foils. He described materials design and processing strategies that have greatly advanced the performance of printable organic devices. In the second talk Nanshu Lu (University of Texas at Austin) discussed the fabrication and biointegration of tissue-like electronics that can conform to—and deform with—living organisms for physiological sensing and stimulation. She explained the mechanics of thin films, microfabrication, and biointegration of bendable and stretchable electronics. In the third presentation, we heard from Polina Anikeeva (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), who has created a new generation of flexible electrode arrays and optoelectronic neural scaffolds that aim to minimize tissue damage and maintain high-quality neural recordings over the course of several months. She reviewed the potential of these devices as a platform to investigate neuronal viability and potentially to facilitate repair of damaged neural tissues.