Swiss scientists developing `flexible`, `eye-catching` electronics
Zurich: Researchers at ETH University in Zurich are reportedly working on electronic components that are thinner and more flexible that paves way for new possibilities for ultra-thin, transparent sensors that are literally easy on the eye.
Researcher Niko Munzenrieder demonstrated special characteristics of an electronic component in the form of an ultra-thin membrane that he picked from a submerged ficus leaf in water and said that the new thin-film transistors adhere to a wide range of surfaces and adapt perfectly.
In order to fabricate the thin-film components, Munzenrieder, together with Giovanni Salvatore, developed a procedure, in which polymer parylene containing membrane is evaporated layer by layer into a conventional two-inch wafer, having a maximum thickness of 0.001 mm, making it 50 times thinner than a human hair.
In subsequent steps, the researchers used standardised methods to build transistors and sensors from semiconductor materials, such as indium gallium zinc oxide, and conductors, such as gold and then released the parylene film with its attached electronic components from the wafer.
An electronic component fabricated in this way is extremely flexible, adaptable and, depending on the material used for the transistors, transparent.
The researchers confirmed the theoretically determined bending radius of 50 micrometers during experiments in which they placed the electronic membrane on human hair and found that the membrane wrapped itself around the hair with perfect conformability
Munzenrieder and Salvatore see `smart` contact lenses as a potential area of application for their flexible electronics.
In the initial tests, the researchers attached the thin-film transistors, along with strain gauges, to standard contact lenses.
However, Munzenrieder said that in the lab, the film can be easily connected to the energy supply under a microscope but a different solution would need to be found for a unit attached to the actual eye.
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