We’ve been following the recent development of flexible electronics with much curiosity, seeing how the technology should revolutionize medical devices. John Rogers of University of Illinois and MC10, the company that sprung out of his research, have been making headlines of late, but it turns out that the folks at IBM haven’t been sitting on their hands.
The IBM team led by Davood Shahrjerdi and Stephen W. Bedell contend that because “mainstream ﬂexible electronics have been based on thin-ﬁlm organicand amorphous semiconductors,” serious challenges arise when trying to build flexible electronics at a small scale. To overcome this, the researchers built nanoscale ﬂexible circuits using “controlled spalling technology, enabling the large-area transfer of the ultrathin body silicon devices to a plastic substrate at room.”
Some details from IBM:
The Controlled Spalling Technique that was used to create the flexible circuits can be applied to other materials as well. For instance, Controlled Spalling could also be used to replace the poor thermal conducting sapphire substrate on solid state lighting. In this application the light (and heat) generating layers can be removed from the sapphire and mounted onto a higher thermally conducting material, such as metal.
These flexible chips are as powerful as any other brittle chip sitting on silicon. More than 10 billion transistors can sit on the plastic substrate. And their ultra low-power needs – a paltry 0.6 volts – make them perfect for novel mobile applications, wearable electronics and bioelectronics.
“For example, in healthcare, a physician could implant a self-powering flexible electronic chip comprised of many nanoscale silicon-based devices into a patient to deliver drugs, or provide analysis via something like a bluetooth signal” said Shahrjerdi.
Here’s IBM’s Steve Bedell talking about his patent for flex circuits and where he sees the technology being useful:
More from IBM Research: Nanocircuits flex tech muscle