Fabrication technology creates stretchable circuits for advanced imaging and wearable electronic devices
UCF researchers have developed a new fabrication process for making stretchable electronic and optoelectronic devices, circuits or systems that can conform or deform to specific shapes. The new process enables manufacturers to make circuits for advanced imaging systems, wearable electronics, and flexible devices for the internet-of-things.
Current processes for producing curved, stretchable or flexible electronic devices provide limited functionality. For example, the devices are rigid or only accommodate very shallow curvatures. Also, they may bend, but only in one direction at a time. The current approaches also result in low density in the active circuit and low levels of interconnectivity. By comparison, the new invention enables manufacturers to arrange circuits that conform to arbitrarily shaped surfaces and stretch to complex shapes, such as the shape of a hemisphere for image sensors. The new process solves the classic imaging problems related to flat lens designs, which require large, complex, costly optics to correct the flat detector plane. In addition, manufacturers can produce image sensors with high pixel density and the interconnectivity needed to control and read such sensors.
A manufacturer can use the process to create flexible circuits or devices in a variety of ways. For example, one method starts with a custom silicon wafer-based circuit of one or more devices or elements that are electrically isolated from each other. The next step is to affix or monolithically integrate a stretchable polymer backplane to the circuit. To make the circuit flexible, the method uses techniques such as dicing or etching to partition the wafer into multiple segments or “islands.” By electrically interconnecting the segments through the stretchable backplane, the method produces a high-density and highly interconnected circuit. Multilayered interconnects embedded in, on or beneath the backplane can also provide an interface to external electronics that are not part of the circuit. The resulting, interconnected and flexible circuit may be encapsulated and/or packaged. The new fabrication technology can use a variety of electronic materials, including (but not limited to) silicon, GaAs, InSb, PbSe, CdTe, organic semiconductors, metal oxide semiconductors and related alloys or hybrid combinations of materials.
- Enables manufacturers to make conventionally fabricated silicon wafer-based circuitry stretchable/flexible
- Curvature capability is greater than in any existing technology
- Significantly reduces lens complexity and size
- Increases image resolution
- Wearable electronics
- Flexible devices for the internet-of-things