Small flexible microelectronics have the potential to revolutionize the medical sensor and diagnostics market, by allowing a continuous, long term monitoring of tissues and organs. Not only the electronics of the future will have to be powerful, but they will also have to be flexible, either for insertion or for a comfortable fit inside moving organs. Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) overcame a major hurdle on this front by creating a flexible novel computer memory unit that can take quite a bit of squeezing.
From a NIST statement:
Though some flexible components exist, creating flexible memory has been a technical barrier, according to NIST researchers.
Hunting for a solution, the researchers took polymer sheets—the sort that transparencies for overhead projectors are made from—and experimented with depositing a thin film of titanium dioxide, an ingredient in sunscreen, on their surfaces. Instead of using expensive equipment to deposit the titanium dioxide as is traditionally done, the material was deposited by a sol gel process, which consists of spinning the material in liquid form and letting it set, like making gelatin. By adding electrical contacts, the team created a flexible memory switch that operates on less than 10 volts, maintains its memory when power is lost, and still functions after being flexed more than 4,000 times.
What’s more, the switch’s performance bears a strong resemblance to that of a memristor, a component theorized in 1971 as a fourth fundamental circuit element (along with the capacitor, resistor and inductor). A memristor is, in essence, a resistor that changes its resistance depending on the amount of current that is sent through it—and retains this resistance even after the power is turned off. Industrial scientists announced they had created a memristor last year, and the NIST component demonstrates similar electrical behavior, but is also flexible. Now that the team has successfully fabricated a memristor, NIST can begin to explore the metrology that may be necessary to study the device’s unique electrical behavior.
NIST video report explaining more details of the new technology:
Press release: Memory with a Twist: NIST Develops a Flexible Memristor…