Letter | Published:

Skin electronics from scalable fabrication of an intrinsically stretchable transistor array

Nature volume 555, pages 8388 (01 March 2018) | Download Citation


Skin-like electronics that can adhere seamlessly to human skin or within the body are highly desirable for applications such as health monitoring1,2, medical treatment3,4, medical implants5 and biological studies6,7, and for technologies that include human–machine interfaces, soft robotics and augmented reality8,9. Rendering such electronics soft and stretchable—like human skin—would make them more comfortable to wear, and, through increased contact area, would greatly enhance the fidelity of signals acquired from the skin. Structural engineering of rigid inorganic and organic devices has enabled circuit-level stretchability, but this requires sophisticated fabrication techniques and usually suffers from reduced densities of devices within an array2,10,11,12. We reasoned that the desired parameters, such as higher mechanical deformability and robustness, improved skin compatibility and higher device density, could be provided by using intrinsically stretchable polymer materials instead. However, the production of intrinsically stretchable materials and devices is still largely in its infancy13,14,15: such materials have been reported11,16,17,18,19, but functional, intrinsically stretchable electronics have yet to be demonstrated owing to the lack of a scalable fabrication technology. Here we describe a fabrication process that enables high yield and uniformity from a variety of intrinsically stretchable electronic polymers. We demonstrate an intrinsically stretchable polymer transistor array with an unprecedented device density of 347 transistors per square centimetre. The transistors have an average charge-carrier mobility comparable to that of amorphous silicon, varying only slightly (within one order of magnitude) when subjected to 100 per cent strain for 1,000 cycles, without current–voltage hysteresis. Our transistor arrays thus constitute intrinsically stretchable skin electronics, and include an active matrix for sensory arrays, as well as analogue and digital circuit elements. Our process offers a general platform for incorporating other intrinsically stretchable polymer materials, enabling the fabrication of next-generation stretchable skin electronic devices.

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This work is supported by Samsung Electronics. We thank L. Beker, N. Matsuhisa and S. Chen for helping with experiments, and L. Jin for discussions about mechanical simulation. J.L. acknowledges support by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program under grant DGE-114747. S.-K.K. thanks NETEP and MOTIE of the Republic of Korea (grant 20173010013000).

Author information

Author notes

    • Sihong Wang
    •  & Jie Xu

    These authors contributed equally to this work.


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

    • Sihong Wang
    • , Jie Xu
    • , Ging-Ji Nathan Wang
    • , Francisco Molina-Lopez
    • , Jong Won Chung
    • , Simiao Niu
    • , Jeffery Lopez
    • , Ting Lei
    • , Amir M. Foudeh
    • , Anatol Ehrlich
    • , Andrea Gasperini
    • , Youngjun Yun
    • , Jeffery B.-H. Tok
    •  & Zhenan Bao
  2. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA

    • Weichen Wang
    •  & Vivian R. Feig
  3. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA

    • Reza Rastak
  4. Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, Yeongtong-gu, Suwon-si, Gyeonggi-do 443-803, Republic of Korea

    • Jong Won Chung
    •  & Youngjun Yun
  5. Department of Materials Engineering and Convergence Technology and ERI, Gyeongsang National University, Jinju, 660-701, Republic of Korea

    • Soon-Ki Kwon
  6. Department of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA

    • Yeongin Kim
    •  & Boris Murmann


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S.W., J.X. and Z.B. designed the project and experiments. S.W., J.X. and W.W. fabricated the intrinsically stretchable transistor array and circuits, and carried out electrical characterizations. G.-J.N.W. synthesized the azide compound. R.R. carried out mechanical simulations. S.W. and F.M.-L. undertook the inkjet printing of a semiconducting polymer. V.R.F. carried out X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy characterizations. J.W.C., A.M.F. and A.E. helped to prepare schematics for the three-dimensional transistor array and carried out device photography. J.X. and J.L. did the mechanical characterizations. S.-K.K. and A.G. provided conjugated polymers. T.L. helped with development of semiconductor patterning. S.N., Y.K., Y.Y. and B.M. helped with circuit design and measurements. S.W., Z.B., J.X. and J.B.-H.T. wrote the manuscript. All authors reviewed and commented on the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Zhenan Bao.

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