We’re finding ourselves becoming increasingly dependent on various electronic devices and gadgets. These innovative technologies are becoming influential in almost every aspect of our lives from our homes and work to helping us with our daily routines and errands. As electronics become smaller, it’s causing their costs to decrease while their public availability surges. Consequently, researchers and developers are trying to incorporate circuits anywhere they can when designing these smaller devices and gadgets. With factors like the number of IoT devices expected to spike astronomically over the next couple of years, the demand for efficient design and engineering methods is growing.
Despite these advances in the electronics and IoT fields, researchers and developers have struggled to incorporate wearable electronics (like fitness gadgets and smart watches) into the mainstream scene of innovative devices and gadgets. Wearable electronics need to have ultra-light and ultra-small components, which can be troublesome due to their hindering of computational and battery power. Wearable products also need to be flexible, which has served as another major obstacle towards them downsizing and becoming more efficient to manufacture.
The biggest factor behind this issue are the device’s semiconductors, which until recently, flexible models were thought to be impossible to develop. That has since changed as a large team of researchers from Japan, the United States, and South Korea recently developed a new semiconductor that doesn’t utilize the covalent bonds between semiconducting materials. The researchers used flexible material like graphene to help wearable electronics reach this next stage of development. Semiconductors need those strong covalent bonds to form crystalline structures, which are notorious for being rigid and inflexible. The flexible semiconductors the multinational research team has developed also have self-healing capabilities as well.
The research team’s semiconductors are similar to MOSFET devices found in silicon-based designs in terms of their layout. The semiconductor’s layers and materials are composed of flexible material that enables the entire device to flex, twist, and turn without having any effect on its performance. Using CNT.PEDOT:PSS as the source for making the drain connections, the material contains a mixture of carbon nanotubes and polystyrene sulfonate. The actual semiconductor material is composed of DPP-polymer, which utilizes diketopyrrolo-pyrrole-dithiophene-thienothiophene material. PDMS is the dielectric between the semiconductor and gate, which is a flexible silicon-based compound.
The gate layer is developed with carbon nanotube material, and the entire device sits on top of a flexible rubber substrate. The devices tested with these semiconductors have been able to maintain their electrical properties after 500 stretching cycles, and can be repaired after heating up to 150 degrees Celsius in a steam chamber for a half hour. Unfortunately for portable and wearable gadgets and electronics, the flexible semiconductor device requires too high voltage, which has made heat management a priority for the research team to work on in their goal to perfect this revolutionary brand of semiconductors.
Filed Under: M2M (machine to machine)