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Researchers discover new way to fabricate stretchable electronics

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Researchers from UNSW Sydney have discovered a new method to create flexible, semiconductor-like materials.

The research was led by UNSW’s Dr Hoang-Phuong Phan and published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

It is described as using lithography – which is a technique that uses light to fabricate features in integrated circuits – to create wide bandgap semiconductors “such as silicon carbide and gallium nitride” on thin, flexible nanomembranes on a polymer substrate.

According to a statement on Wednesday from the university, the process might be developed for use in wearable health monitoring systems or biomedical implants, for example a system for alerting epilepsy sufferers of an imminent seizure, or in organ-on-chip applications.

The latter allows researchers to test drugs and other substances on non-living subjects.

Phan said that many people were seeking alternatives to human and animal tests due to ethical and other reasons.

“You can grow 3D cell organs that mimic the organs in a real body, but we also need to develop 3D electrodes to help facilitate that organ-on-chip process,” said Phan.

“Our process allows for an electronic system to be created on a membrane that can be stretched into any 3D shape around the organ-on-chip.”

The release discusses other potential applications including a wearable sleeve to monitor UV radiation a wearer is exposed to, medical devices for real-time neuron signal monitoring (for epilepsy seizure prediction)

The research is described as the highlight of a multi-disciplinary collaboration including UNSW, Griffith University, UQ, QUT, and their international partners such as Kyung Hee University, University of Southern California, and Northwestern University.

Picture: Optical image of an ultra-thin flower-shaped silicon carbide (SiC) wide bandgap semiconductor stamped onto a polyimide (PI) film and placed onto a water droplet. (credit Thanh-An Truong)

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