Nanowire active-matrix circuitry for low-voltage macroscale artificial skin


Large-scale integration of high-performance electronic components on mechanically flexible substrates may enable new applications in electronics, sensing and energy1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. Over the past several years, tremendous progress in the printing and transfer of single-crystalline, inorganic micro- and nanostructures on plastic substrates has been achieved through various process schemes5,6,7,8,9,10. For instance, contact printing of parallel arrays of semiconductor nanowires (NWs) has been explored as a versatile route to enable fabrication of high-performance, bendable transistors and sensors11,12,13,14. However, truly macroscale integration of ordered NW circuitry has not yet been demonstrated, with the largest-scale active systems being of the order of 1 cm2 (refs 11,15). This limitation is in part due to assembly- and processing-related obstacles, although larger-scale integration has been demonstrated for randomly oriented NWs (ref. 16). Driven by this challenge, here we demonstrate macroscale (7×7 cm2) integration of parallel NW arrays as the active-matrix backplane of a flexible pressure-sensor array (18×19 pixels). The integrated sensor array effectively functions as an artificial electronic skin2,17,18, capable of monitoring applied pressure profiles with high spatial resolution. The active-matrix circuitry operates at a low operating voltage of less than 5 V and exhibits superb mechanical robustness and reliability, without performance degradation on bending to small radii of curvature (2.5 mm) for over 2,000 bending cycles. This work presents the largest integration of ordered NW-array active components, and demonstrates a model platform for future integration of nanomaterials for practical applications.

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Figure 1: Nanowire-based macroscale flexible devices.
Figure 2: Electrical characterization of NW-array FETs.
Figure 3: Time-resolved measurements of the sensor response.
Figure 4: Mechanical testing of integrated pressure-sensor devices.
Figure 5: Fully integrated, artificial e-skin with NW active-matrix backplane.


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This work was partially financially supported by NSF CAREER Award, MARCO/MSD Focus Center and DARPA/DSO Programmable Matter. The synthesis part of this work was supported by a LDRD from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. A.J. acknowledges support from the World Class University programme at Sunchon National University.

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K.T., T.T. and A.J. designed the experiments. K.T., T.T., A.G.G., J.C.H. and H.K. carried out experiments. K.T. and P.W.L. carried out simulations. K.T., T.T., P.W.L. and A.J. contributed to analysing the data. K.T. and A.J. wrote the Letter and all authors provided feedback.

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Correspondence to Ali Javey.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Takei, K., Takahashi, T., Ho, J. et al. Nanowire active-matrix circuitry for low-voltage macroscale artificial skin. Nature Mater 9, 821–826 (2010).

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