18 September 2012
imec demonstrates electronics that flex and stretch like skin
Belgian institute imec has integrated an ultra thin, flexible chip with bendable and stretchable interconnects into a package it says adapts dynamically to curving and bending surfaces.
The circuitry is designed to be embedded in medical and lifestyle applications such as wearable health monitors or smart clothing.
First, the researchers thinned a commercially available microcontroller down to 30µm, which was then embedded in a slim polyimide package (40 to 50µm thick). This ultrathin chip was integrated with stretchable electrical wiring, realised by patterning polyimide supported meandering horseshoe shaped wires.
The team then embedded the package in an elastomeric substrate such as polydimethylsiloxane. In this substrate, the conductors behave as two dimensional springs, enabling greater flexibility while preserving conductivity.
"Future electronic circuitry will stretch and bend like rubber or skin while preserving its conductivity," commented Jan Vanfleteren at imec's University of Ghent lab. "This breakthrough achievement demonstrates that flexible ultra thin chip packages can be integrated with stretchable wiring, paving the way toward fully flexible applications."
Commercial products could include clothing which uses leds and sensors to track movements.
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