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Bendable silicon wafer is just 15µm thick

A new method of creating bendable silicon chips could enable high-performance flexible electronic devices, according to research published by a team from the University of Glasgow.

The team, from Glasgow’s Bendable Electronics and Sensing Technologies (BEST) department, says it has made a silicon wafer which is only 15µm thick, yet capable of delivering high-performance computing while remaining flexible.

Professor Ravinder Dahiya, the head of the BEST group, said: “Silicon-based circuits have advanced in complexity with remarkable speed since their initial development in the late 1950s, making today’s world of high-performance computing possible.

“However, silicon is a brittle material which breaks easily under stress, which has made it very difficult to use in bendable systems on anything other than the nano-scale.

“What we’ve been able to do for the first time is adapt existing processes to transfer wafer-scale ultrathin silicon chips onto flexible substrates. The process has been demonstrated with wafers 4in in diameter, but it can be implemented for larger wafers as well. In any case, this scale is sufficient for manufacturing ultra-thin silicon wafers capable of delivering satisfactory computing power.”

Meanwhile, the BEST team says it has also identified a number of research questions which need be answered before flexible electronics can reach the levels of computing, data handling and communication performance expected from modern devices.

Professor Dahiya added: “There have been many breakthroughs in the development of flexible electronics in recent years and the technology is developing quickly. But there are still significant issues which need to be overcome to help systems like our ultrathin silicon wafers provide the kind of performance the market expects."

Author
Graham Pitcher

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