Many scientists predict that the future also implies flexible electronic devices, and current technologies do not allow us to manufacture fast and cheap flexible electronics. It’s just very difficult. However, a recent breakthrough is the first important step for manufacturing better flexible electronics. Researchers at the Stanford University teamed up with engineers from Samsung and they have developed a new way to align organic microwires as circuits. The so-called organic microwires hold the key in manufacturing flexible electronics, and now the researchers have managed to align them on a substrate and to design complex circuits.
The team of researchers led by Zhenan Bao, professor of chemical engineering at Stanford University, have put the organic microwires in a liquid solution, then they have filtered them through paper in order to position the transistors of the circuit. Now, the engineers can put as many microwires as they want in a complex circuit in an easy and low-cost process.
“That allows us to significantly increase the output current from these devices,” said Bao who explained that this technique is two and a half times faster than others.
This means that now engineers can build flexible displays that could refresh two times faster than current flexible displays based on conventional techniques. Also, these flexible displays would have an advantage over today’s electronics like cellphones and computers that use silicon-made chips because they don’t use plastic which melts at high temperatures. A transistor of a flexible display is made of organic microwires, and although they are not as fast as silicon, they are better when it comes to flexible electronic devices. Thanks to the breakthrough made by Stanford and Samsung engineers, the transistors are now cheap to manufacture, and they can coat vast areas meaning that we could develop immense flexible displays.
“Our goal is to make electronic devices that are lighter in weight and can be coated over a large area. This includes displays that are put onto a plastic substrate and can be folded, low-cost sensors that are disposable, and electronic tags put on merchandise,” said Bao.
Although before organic microwires could have been added to a solution then printed on a substrate , they tend to crowd and to stretch at very odd angles, and engineers couldn’t connect the electrodes required to form a transistor.
“Previously, many groups have shown that they can make transistors out of nanowires and microwires. All these wires are sitting on top of each other randomly. It’s difficult to pack a dense layer of wires into the same area,” said Bao.
Bao and her fellow researchers are now looking to test their technique on inorganic microwires which are very different from organic microwires. In the meantime, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, John Rogers, said that Stanford and Samsung’s technique could be introduced right away as it could help manufacturing large-scale microwire circuits because they are cheaper, and as good as the circuits built using conventional methods.
Now, it only remains to see if this technique can be introduced quickly as the world of flexible electronics could be revolutionized, and we will get our cheap and fast electronic devices that we deserve.