In the near future, stretchable semiconductors are expected to dictate design criteria for electronics.
FREMONT, CA: Soft and flexible tissues that can be stretched easily and heal quickly upon damage are characteristic of living organisms. Electronic devices, on the other hand, are mostly made up of tough, inflexible materials. Researchers are now working towards bridging the gap between the physical properties of tissues and electronic devices by developing stretchable semiconductor materials. Popular Mechanics recently published an article that talks about this new idea of flexible semiconductors.
The properties of stretchable semiconductors are skin-inspired. Efforts are on to develop semiconductor materials that would be easy to fabricate and tolerant to strain. They should also permit the decreased size of electronic devices by allowing more content into a smaller space. Previously, it was considered extremely challenging to make a skin-inspired material that could also allow conductivity. Semiconductor materials are conventionally brittle. Earlier attempts also resulted in stretchable semiconductors either had low conductivity or faced difficulties in dissolving completely. However, recent endeavors to create such material have produced advancements.
By mixing two degradable polymers, researchers were recently able to formulate semiconducting nanofibers packed in an elastic matrix. They also found out that thin films of these fibers can be stretched to almost double their length without compromising the electrical performance. Such a material can be embedded and left for a month without the need to retrieve it in a second operation.
In addition to their use in medical diagnostics devices, stretchable, skin-inspired semiconductors can also contribute towards biological ships or bioships in the future. Although such vectors have mostly been portrayed in science fiction, stretchable semiconductors do have the potential to create a similar vehicle. Bioships can advance space missions by allowing regeneration or self-healing in case of damage.
The potential of stretchable semiconductor material that can culminate in sophisticated electronic designs is now well-known. If the advancements continue, one can expect to see another significant revolution in electronics design and functionalities very soon.