Fast, Stretchy Circuits Could Yield New Wave of Wearable Electronics


Reading time ( words)

The consumer marketplace is flooded with a lively assortment of smart wearable electronics that do everything from monitor vital signs, fitness or sun exposure to play music, charge other electronics or even purify the air around you — all wirelessly.

Now, a team of University of Wisconsin—Madison engineers has created the world’s fastest stretchable, wearable integrated circuits, an advance that could drive the Internet of Things and a much more connected, high-speed wireless world.

The advance is a platform for manufacturers seeking to expand the capabilities and applications of wearable electronics — including those with biomedical applications — particularly as they strive to develop devices that take advantage of a new generation of wireless broadband technologies referred to as 5G.

With wavelength sizes between a millimeter and a meter, microwave radio frequencies are electromagnetic waves that use frequencies in the .3 gigahertz to 300 gigahertz range. That falls directly in the 5G range.

In mobile communications, the wide microwave radio frequencies of 5G networks will accommodate a growing number of cellphone users and notable increases in data speeds and coverage areas.

In an intensive care unit, epidermal electronic systems (electronics that adhere to the skin like temporary tattoos) could allow health care staff to monitor patients remotely and wirelessly, increasing patient comfort by decreasing the customary tangle of cables and wires.

What makes the new, stretchable integrated circuits so powerful is their unique structure, inspired by twisted-pair telephone cables. They contain, essentially, two ultra-tiny intertwining power transmission lines in repeating S-curves.

This serpentine shape — formed in two layers with segmented metal blocks, like a 3-D puzzle — gives the transmission lines the ability to stretch without affecting their performance. It also helps shield the lines from outside interference and, at the same time, confine the electromagnetic waves flowing through them, almost completely eliminating current loss. Currently, the researchers’ stretchable integrated circuits can operate at radio frequency levels up to 40 gigahertz.

And, unlike other stretchable transmission lines, whose widths can approach 640 micrometers (or .64 millimeters), the researchers’ new stretchable integrated circuits are just 25 micrometers (or .025 millimeters) thick. That’s tiny enough to be highly effective in epidermal electronic systems, among many other applications.

Ma’s group has been developing what are known as transistor active devices for the past decade. This latest advance marries the researchers’ expertise in both high-frequency and flexible electronics.

“We’ve found a way to integrate high-frequency active transistors into a useful circuit that can be wireless,” says Ma, whose work was supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. “This is a platform. This opens the door to lots of new capabilities.”

Other authors on the paper include Yei Hwan Jung, Juhwan Lee, Namki Cho, Sang June Cho, Huilong Zhang, Subin Lee, Tong June Kim and Shaoqin Gong of UW–Madison and Yijie Qiu of the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China.

Share

Print


Suggested Items

CES 2020: The Intelligence of Things

01/06/2020 | Nolan Johnson, I-Connect007
Show week for CES 2020 starts well ahead of the actual exhibition dates because it is huge. The organizers of CES state that there are more than 4,400 exhibiting companies and nearly three million net square feet of exhibit space. On the floor, you can find 307 of the 2018 Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the week, I-Connect007 Editors Dan Feinberg and Nolan Johnson will bring you some of the most interesting news, products, and announcements from 5G to IoT, semiconductor developments, autonomous vehicle technology, interconnect, fabrication materials, and much more.

Beyond Scaling: An Electronics Resurgence Initiative

06/05/2017 | DARPA
The Department of Defense’s proposed FY 2018 budget includes a $75 million allocation for DARPA in support of a new, public-private “electronics resurgence” initiative. The initiative seeks to undergird a new era of electronics in which advances in performance will be catalyzed not just by continued component miniaturization but also by radically new microsystem materials, designs, and architectures.

Today’s MilAero Options, Part 1: 'Pride Goeth Before...'

04/12/2016 | Marc Carter
Historians, with their 20/20 hindsight, often write about the inevitable decline and fall of kingdoms, empires, religions, organizations, governments, and all the other permanent structures we humans build.



Copyright © 2020 I-Connect007. All rights reserved.