Thursday, June 8, 2023

A New Era Of Flexible Electronics

By Nidhi Agarwal

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Researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the University of Texas at Austin have paved the way for a new era of flexible electronics that can integrate with different parts of the human body.

Flexible electronics, like those used in this phone, that better conform to spherical surfaces could someday be used in bioelectronics. Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

The idea of foldable phones has evolved beyond just a novelty concept and has become commonplace in the mobile device market. Today, the focus has shifted to enhancing their design and functionality by utilizing cutting-edge predictive models that evaluate the devices’ ability to conform to curved and spherical surfaces.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the University of Texas at Austin have paved the way for a revolutionary new era in which flexible electronic devices can be seamlessly integrated with various parts of the human body. The simulation model enables immediate prediction of conformability, significantly expediting the design process for flexible electronics. The research team’s computational models offer precise guidance for experimentalists, saving them from conducting countless time-consuming experiments to determine the optimal design.

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Bioelectronic devices must closely adhere to living tissue and avoid buckling or creasing. However, conforming to non-developable surfaces, such as spheres on the human body, has been challenging for researchers. The team employed experimental, analytical, and numerical methods to study the conformance of circular polymer sheets on spherical surfaces, similar in properties to flexible electronics. By analyzing the results, the team have developed a formula that predicts the conformability of flexible electronics by uncovering the underlying physics.

The researchers claim that their three different methods yielded consistent results. A straightforward mathematical equation has been derived to direct the design of highly conformable flexible electronics. The researchers also showcased a specific technique for substantially boosting the flexibility of sheets to conform to spherical surfaces. Inspired by the Japanese art of kirigami, which involves folding and cutting paper, the team made basic radial cuts in the circular sheet, elevating its conformability from 40% to over 90%.

The researchers view this discovery as a catalyst for innovation in the industry by enabling researchers to create improved flexible electronics designs. This comprehensive study is the first to unravel the complexities of how flexible electronics conform to intricate surfaces, laying the groundwork for future bioelectronics research to enhance conformity to the human body.

Reference : Siyi Liu et al, Conformability of flexible sheets on spherical surfaces, Science Advances (2023). DOI : 10.1126/sciadv.adf2709www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.adf2709

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