Electronics

Electronic stickers to step up Internet of Things expansion

Electronic stickers to step up...
Electronic stickers can turn ordinary toy blocks into high-tech sensors connected to the "Internet of Things"
Electronic stickers can turn ordinary toy blocks into high-tech sensors connected to the "Internet of Things"
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A thin-film electronic circuit can peel easily from its silicon wafer with water, making the wafer reusable for building a nearly infinite number of circuits
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A thin-film electronic circuit can peel easily from its silicon wafer with water, making the wafer reusable for building a nearly infinite number of circuits
Researchers have designed peelable electronic films that can be cut and pasted onto any object to achieve desired functions
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Researchers have designed peelable electronic films that can be cut and pasted onto any object to achieve desired functions
Electronic stickers can turn ordinary toy blocks into high-tech sensors connected to the "Internet of Things"
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Electronic stickers can turn ordinary toy blocks into high-tech sensors connected to the "Internet of Things"

The Internet of Things promises convenience, marked improvements in efficiencies, and huge economic benefits, but for such visions to be realized the number of physical devices being integrated with the digital world needs to continue increasing. But limiting the expansion, and ultimate ubiquity, of this technology has been the cost, power and size of the enabling electronics – all things that have been addressed by a new fabrication method.

Researchers at Purdue University and the University of Virginia are just the latest to take on the challenge of getting physical objects connected to the IoT cheaper and easier. To this end, they've developed a new ultra-thin circuit fabrication method that promises to bring the IoT to pretty much any object you can slap a label onto.

The process behind these peelable electronic circuits not only eliminates a number of manufacturing steps, thereby reducing cost, but it also means almost any object can act as a sensor or be controlled via the application of high-tech decals.

A thin-film electronic circuit can peel easily from its silicon wafer with water, making the wafer reusable for building a nearly infinite number of circuits
A thin-film electronic circuit can peel easily from its silicon wafer with water, making the wafer reusable for building a nearly infinite number of circuits

Of course, thin-film materials are nothing new, but this wafer-recyclable, transfer-printing process, using combinations of active nano-materials is a step into the future, both technologically and environmentally.

Conventionally, most electronic circuits are printed on rigid silicon wafers. These stiff substrates need to be resilient enough to withstand the heat and chemical etching of the process, and as such, the wafer is replaced each time a new circuit is printed. This new technique, called "transfer printing," allows a single wafer to be used over and over to build a near infinite number of flexible film-based circuits, which can be easily peeled off at room temperature by submerging the wafer and completed circuit in water.

"It's like the red paint on San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge – paint peels because the environment is very wet," says Chi Hwan Lee, Purdue assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering. "So in our case, submerging the wafer and completed circuit in water significantly reduces the mechanical peeling stress and is environmentally friendly."

Researchers have designed peelable electronic films that can be cut and pasted onto any object to achieve desired functions
Researchers have designed peelable electronic films that can be cut and pasted onto any object to achieve desired functions

After the manufacturing process, the thin-film circuits can be trimmed to shape and stuck onto any suitable surface. "We've optimized this process so that we can delaminate electronic films from wafers in a defect-free manner," Lee says. Putting one of the stickers on a flower pot, for example, made that flower pot capable of sensing temperature changes that could affect the plant's growth.

According to the researchers, the stickers could eventually facilitate wireless communication. "We could customize a sensor, stick it onto a drone, and send the drone to dangerous areas to detect gas leaks, for example," says Lee.

The research was published in the journal PNAS and the process is demonstrated in the video below.

Source: Purdue University

Electronic stickers for the 'internet of things'

2 comments
MD
I think the RFID/NFD industry have already got the IOT on sticky labels. sorted... Individual customisation would be good, but we live in a world where mass production, scalability and market share will remain important till the end of the Anthropocene.
Wolf0579
I have never felt that connecting things just because you can was a good idea. Now I read someone has created a bot-net of IOT devices that is 18,000 units strong, and he did it in a ridiculously short period of time, like under twenty-four hours. The devices enslaved are smartphones, routers, smart lights and refrigerators. This is a HUGE security problem. With the digitization of medical records, you will see assassination by prescription, with cars being able to be hacked while on the road, you could see mass attacks by say, maxing the throttles and disabling the braking systems of all cars and trucks on the highway. This is NOT a good idea.