Abstract

Thin-film field-effect transistors are essential elements of stretchable electronic devices for wearable electronics1,2. All of the materials and components of such transistors need to be stretchable and mechanically robust3,4. Although there has been recent progress towards stretchable conductors5,6,7,8, the realization of stretchable semiconductors has focused mainly on strain-accommodating engineering of materials, or blending of nanofibres or nanowires into elastomers9,10,11. An alternative approach relies on using semiconductors that are intrinsically stretchable, so that they can be fabricated using standard processing methods12. Molecular stretchability can be enhanced when conjugated polymers, containing modified side-chains and segmented backbones, are infused with more flexible molecular building blocks13,14. Here we present a design concept for stretchable semiconducting polymers, which involves introducing chemical moieties to promote dynamic non-covalent crosslinking of the conjugated polymers. These non-covalent crosslinking moieties are able to undergo an energy dissipation mechanism through breakage of bonds when strain is applied, while retaining high charge transport abilities. As a result, our polymer is able to recover its high field-effect mobility performance (more than 1 square centimetre per volt per second) even after a hundred cycles at 100 per cent applied strain. Organic thin-film field-effect transistors fabricated from these materials exhibited mobility as high as 1.3 square centimetres per volt per second and a high on/off current ratio exceeding a million. The field-effect mobility remained as high as 1.12 square centimetres per volt per second at 100 per cent strain along the direction perpendicular to the strain. The field-effect mobility of damaged devices can be almost fully recovered after a solvent and thermal healing treatment. Finally, we successfully fabricated a skin-inspired stretchable organic transistor operating under deformations that might be expected in a wearable device.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by Samsung Electronics and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (grant number FA9550-15-1-0106). S.R.-G. acknowledges the Fonds de Recherche Québécois, Nature et Technologie (FRQNT) for a postdoctoral fellowship. Y.-C.C. acknowledges the Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan, for partial financial support (project 104-2923-E-002-003-MY3). F.L. thanks the Swiss National Science Foundation for an Early Mobility Postdoc grant. B.C.S. acknowledges the National Research Fund of Luxembourg for financial support (project 6932623). J.L. acknowledges support from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program under grant DGE-114747. T. Kurosawa acknowledges support from the Office of Naval Research (N00014-14-1-0142). X.G. acknowledges support from the Bridging Research Interactions through the collaborative Development Grants in Energy (BRIDGE) programme under the SunShot initiative of the Department of Energy (contract DE-FOA-0000654-1588). Use of the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, is supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences under contract DE-AC02-76SF00515. X-ray diffraction studies were performed at the Stanford Nano Shared Facilities.

Author information

Author notes

    • Jin Young Oh
    • , Simon Rondeau-Gagné
    •  & Yu-Cheng Chiu

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

    • Simon Rondeau-Gagné
    • , Yu-Cheng Chiu
    • , Bob C. Schroeder
    •  & Lihua Jin

    Present addresses: Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Windsor, 401 Sunset Avenue, Windsor, Ontario N9B 3P4, Canada (S.R.-G.); Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, Yuan Ze University, Taoyuan 32003, Taiwan (Y.-C.C.); Materials Research Institute and School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, UK (B.C.S.); Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA (L.J.).

Affiliations

  1. Department of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305-5025, USA

    • Jin Young Oh
    • , Simon Rondeau-Gagné
    • , Yu-Cheng Chiu
    • , Alex Chortos
    • , Franziska Lissel
    • , Ging-Ji Nathan Wang
    • , Bob C. Schroeder
    • , Tadanori Kurosawa
    • , Jeffrey Lopez
    • , Toru Katsumata
    • , Jie Xu
    • , Xiaodan Gu
    • , Won-Gyu Bae
    • , Jong Won Chung
    • , Jeffrey B.-H. Tok
    •  & Zhenan Bao
  2. Corporate Research and Development, Performance Materials Technology Center, Asahi Kasei Corporation, 2-1 Samejima, Fuji, Shizuoka 416-8501, Japan

    • Toru Katsumata
  3. Department of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305-5025, USA

    • Chenxin Zhu
    •  & Yeongin Kim
  4. Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Menlo Park, California 94025, USA

    • Xiaodan Gu
  5. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305-5025, USA

    • Lihua Jin
  6. Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, Yeongtong-gu, Suwon-si, Gyeonggi-do 443-803, South Korea

    • Jong Won Chung

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Contributions

J.Y.O., S.R.-G., Y.-C.C. and Z.B. conceived and designed the experiments. S.R.-G. and Z.B. designed the monomers and polymers. S.R.-G., B.C.S., T. Kurosawa, T. Katsumata and F.L. synthesized and characterized the monomers and polymers. J.Y.O. designed the device experiments and evaluated the stretchability of materials and devices. Y.-C.C. and J.Y.O. fabricated and optimized the OTFTs on solid substrates. J.Y.O. fabricated the fully stretchable OTFTs. J.Y.O., A.C., and C.Z. optimized the fully stretchable devices. J.Y.O. designed and performed the healing experiments. J.Y.O., G.-J.N.W., J.X., L.J., J.L., J.W.C., J.L. and Y.K. analysed the optical and mechanical properties of the polymer film. Y.-C.C. performed the grazing incidence X-ray diffraction experiments and analysis. Y.-C.C., X.G., S.R.-G., J.Y.O. and Z.B. proposed the new mechanism concept. J.Y.O. and W.-G.B. designed and drew the three-dimensional computer graphics. J.Y.O., S.R.-G., Y.-C.C., J.B.-H.T. and Z.B. co-wrote the paper. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Zhenan Bao.

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    Supplementary Information

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature20102

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