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Flexible transistors that come on a roll may power super-fast, next-gen wearables

The next generation of high-tech wearables may be made using these amazing flexible transistors, that not only have the ability to operate at super fast speeds, but could even be produced on a huge roll with a mold ready to be used many times over. The technology has been developed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, using something called nanoimprint lithography, where scientists blast a sheet of material with electrons, then precision cut the ultra thin silicon membrane with a nano-knife. If that’s not cool, we don’t know what is.

The process is very different to how transistors are fabricated at the moment, and the team’s breakthrough may help drive forward a switch to what’s called roll-to-roll printing. The mold created by the nanoimprint lithography method can be used more than once, and provided a company has the right type of stamp, the transistor patterns could be pressed onto rolls of flexible plastic.

Related: Why clothes, not watches, are the future of wearable technology

What are the benefits of this new type of transistor? Speed, efficiency, and cost. The transistors created by the university were speed tested, and returned a record-breaking 38GHz transfer rate, but it’s believed they may be able to push speeds of up to 110GHz. That puts them in the same category as the fastest computers. The transistor channels can be used to send data or power, which combined with the thinness and flexibility, makes them ideal for use in wearables.

By shooting electrons and chopping away with a nanoknife, the resulting transistor avoids problems that can affect transistors made the current way, and that increases efficiency and cuts down on power usage — another essential piece in the wearable puzzle. Their small size also makes it possible to put more transistors on a device, increasing functionality and speed. According to the scientists, nanoimprint lithography is simple and cheap, plus the concept of reusing the molds to reprint transistors should help lower production costs.

The technology is still in the early stages, and there’s no information on when it may be used commercially.

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