Three new projects to advance flexible hybrid electronics

Tuesday, 07 July, 2020

Three new projects to advance flexible hybrid electronics

Technology community SEMI-FlexTech has announced the launch of three projects to accelerate sensor and sensor system innovations for new applications in industries including health care, automotive, industrial and defence.

In collaboration with the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL), SEMI-FlexTech will fund half of the total US$2.6 million for the projects aimed at maturing the flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) technology ecosystem. Organisations leading the projects include the University of Colorado, the University of Washington and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

The University of Colorado project is focused on integrating soft actuators and flexible electronic control circuits to demonstrate a complete soft robotic system. The project includes a demonstration of synthetic muscular hydrostat integrating electronics and soft actuator modules capable of manipulating objects. The system will mimic muscular structures such as an octopus arm or elephant trunk and will use a human-machine interface for robotic manipulation. The university will partner with PARC, a Xerox company, on the 18-month project.

Researchers at the University of Washington will focus on an 18-month project to improve and optimise sensor design with ultrahigh-resolution printed structures using the novel piezoelectric material of a TMCM MnCl3 (trimethylchloromethyl ammonium trichloromanganese). Deliverables include demonstration of large area roll-to-roll printed electronics fabrication and integration, with compact signal conditioning and wireless data transmission. This project aims to bring the high performance of high-temperature, inflexible inorganic sensors to low-temperature flexible electronics through a low-cost, fully printed process using low-toxicity materials. The project aims to develop a novel approach to creating flexible health monitoring sensors.

UCLA will develop and demonstrate a foldable, high-resolution microdisplay on PDMS substrates by developing an ultrahigh-yield, scalable and low-cost mass transfer process for assembly of high-quality GaN µLEDs at 100 µm size for a resolution of >200 pixels per inch (ppi). The prototype will be made using heterogeneous integration of mass-transferred GaN µLED with Si CMOS driver circuitry on a common flexible organic substrate using Fan-Out-Wafer-Level Packaging. In parallel, the project will explore testing strategies for electrical characterisation of µLED and process scalability and limitation. UCLA will partner with Veeco on the 18-month project.

“These groundbreaking research projects target technology advancements that are too risky for corporate R&D funding but offer the potential for high payoff,” said Melissa Grupen-Shemansky, CTO of SEMI and Executive Director of SEMI-FlexTech. “ARL relies on the SEMI-FlexTech Governing Council and Technical Advisory Council to select projects that drive leapfrog advances in flexible and printed electronics. Calling upon their deep technical knowledge and experience in the field, SEMI-FlexTech members of these councils vet projects based on technology gaps in the industry.”

Image credit: © Hempel

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