Researchers at Tufts University have developed a type of transistor that has the potential to make electronic devices completely flexible. The novelty, moreover, can be intertwined to produce tissues or be incorporated into them, can be used on the skin, or even implanted in organs and structures of the human body for disease monitoring and diagnosis, and other possible applications. .
These early thread-based transistors (TBTs) can be turned into logic circuits and simple integrated circuits, all flexible and woven.
This makes it possible to replace the last rigid component in many current flexible devices and, when combined with sensors manufactured with the same technology, to create fully flexible multiplexed devices. These soft, pliable electronic devices promise a wide range of applications that adapt to different shapes and surfaces of the human body and allow free movement without compromising device operation.
“In lab experiments, we were able to show how our component can monitor changes in sodium and ammonia concentrations at multiple sites. Theoretically, we could scale the integrated circuit we created from TBTs to connect a wide variety of sensors tracking many biomarkers. In many different locations using one device, “said Rachel Owyeung of Tufts University.
Weaving a transistor consists of lining a linen wire with carbon nanotubes, which create a semiconductor surface through which electrons can travel.
The wire is then connected to three thin gold wires that act as electrodes – an electron source, or collector, a drain, or emitter, through which the electrons flow, and a door or base whose voltage controls the passage of current between collector and emitter. Base voltage allows you to turn the current on or off or amplify it, the two basic mechanisms of operation of a transistor.
A critical innovation was the use of an electrolyte infused gel to wrap the wire and connect it to the base. The gel is composed of silica nanoparticles that self-assemble into a lattice structure. The electrolyte (or ionogel) gel may be deposited on the wire by a dip coating. In contrast to the oxides or solid state polymers used in the doors of classic transistors, the ionogel is resistant to elongation and flexion.
An important detail is that fiber transistor manufacturing completely eliminates the clean rooms where traditional transistors are made, which represents substantial cost savings.
“The development of TBTs was an important step in making electronics fully flexible. So we can now turn our attention to improving the design and performance of these devices for potential applications. There are many medical applications where real-time measurement of biomarkers. can be important for treating disease and monitoring patients’ health. The ability to fully integrate a soft and flexible monitoring and diagnostic device that the patient hardly perceives can be quite significant, “said Professor Sameer Sonkusale, team coordinator.
Thus, in addition to opening the range of possibilities for designing innovative electronics, transistors could be employed to develop incredibly thin, pliable and elastic devices to be incorporated into biological tissues and implanted into organs such as the skin, the liver. , kidneys, the heart and the brain, for example, without affecting their biological functions – and without the patient feeling the presence of the devices in their body.
This means that transistors could give rise to electronics capable of monitoring in real time and facilitating the treatment of various diseases such; as heart problems, diabetes and neurological dysfunctions. The technology has been introduced and has numerous applications, and although much research and experimentation is still needed for new devices to be developed and come true. It seems that malleable electronics will evolve a lot in the coming years.