Electronic skin will only become truly practical if it’s thin enough to be virtually imperceptible, and scientists may just have made this breakthrough. Stanford researchers have developed a new technique that produces “atomically thin” transistors less than 100 nanometers in length. This is “several times” shorter than the previous one, according to the university.
The team accomplished the feat by overcoming a long-standing obstacle in flexible technology. While “2D” semiconductors are ideal, they require so much heat to melt flexible plastic. The new approach covers the glass-coated silicon with an ultra-thin semiconductor film (molybdenum disulfide) coated with nano-structured gold electrodes. This produces a film just three atoms thick using a temperature close to 1500F – the conventional plastic substrate would have deformed around 680F.
Once the components have cooled, the team can apply the film to the substrate and perform a few “additional manufacturing steps” to create an entire structure approximately five microns thick, or one tenth the thickness of a hair. human. It is even ideal for low power use, as it can handle high currents at low voltage.
There is more work to be done. Researchers want to both refine the flexible technology and include wireless technology that would allow networking without cumbersome hardware. It also ignores the usual challenges with technology like this – inventors should find a way to mass-produce these transistors at reasonable prices. If successful, however, it could lead to some very effective e-skins, implants and other flexible devices that are almost imperceptible.
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