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Self-powered ultra-flexible electronics via nano-grating-patterned organic photovoltaics

Abstract

Next-generation biomedical devices1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 will need to be self-powered and conformable to human skin or other tissue. Such devices would enable the accurate and continuous detection of physiological signals without the need for an external power supply or bulky connecting wires. Self-powering functionality could be provided by flexible photovoltaics that can adhere to moveable and complex three-dimensional biological tissues1,2,3,4 and skin5,6,7,8,9. Ultra-flexible organic power sources10,11,12,13 that can be wrapped around an object have proven mechanical and thermal stability in long-term operation13, making them potentially useful in human-compatible electronics. However, the integration of these power sources with functional electric devices including sensors has not yet been demonstrated because of their unstable output power under mechanical deformation and angular change. Also, it will be necessary to minimize high-temperature and energy-intensive processes10,12 when fabricating an integrated power source and sensor, because such processes can damage the active material of the functional device and deform the few-micrometre-thick polymeric substrates. Here we realize self-powered ultra-flexible electronic devices that can measure biometric signals with very high signal-to-noise ratios when applied to skin or other tissue. We integrated organic electrochemical transistors used as sensors with organic photovoltaic power sources on a one-micrometre-thick ultra-flexible substrate. A high-throughput room-temperature moulding process was used to form nano-grating morphologies (with a periodicity of 760 nanometres) on the charge transporting layers. This substantially increased the efficiency of the organophotovoltaics, giving a high power-conversion efficiency that reached 10.5 per cent and resulted in a high power-per-weight value of 11.46 watts per gram. The organic electrochemical transistors exhibited a transconductance of 0.8 millisiemens and fast responsivity above one kilohertz under physiological conditions, which resulted in a maximum signal-to-noise ratio of 40.02 decibels for cardiac signal detection. Our findings offer a general platform for next-generation self-powered electronics.

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Fig. 1: Design of the double-grating-patterned high-performance ultra-flexible OPV.
Fig. 2: Mechanical durability of the double-grating-patterned ultra-flexible OPV.
Fig. 3: Design of the ultra-flexible self-powered integrated device.
Fig. 4: Cardiac signal recording by the self-powered ultra-flexible sensor.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors on reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Toray Industries, Inc., for supplying the polymer material (PBDTTT-OFT) used in our OPVs, and H. Yawo for supplying the optogenetic rat. This work was financially supported by Japan Science and Technology Agency ACCEL grant number JPMJMI17F1.

Reviewer information

Nature thanks F. Cicoira, D.-H. Kim and K. Leo for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Authors

Contributions

S.P. and T.S. conceived and designed the research. S.P. and S.W.H. fabricated 1D double-grating-patterned ultra-flexible OPV devices and performed electrical and optical measurements. S.P., W.L., T.Y. and M.S. fabricated integrated devices, and performed electrical measurements and the demonstration of ECG monitoring. D.I. and D.H. observed cross-sectional SEM and TEM images. Z.J., K.Y. and H.J. helped in data analysis. S.P., K.F., K.T. and T.S. analysed and interpreted the data, and prepared the manuscript with comments from all the co-authors. T.S. supervised the project.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Kenjiro Fukuda or Keisuke Tajima or Takao Someya.

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: The authors declare no competing interests.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

This file contains Supplementary Tables 1 and 2 and Supplementary Figs. 1–29, Supplementary Video captions and Supplementary References. Full figure captions are provided separately in the Supplementary Information Guide.

Supplementary Information

This file contains the Supplementary Information Guide; which includes the full captions for Supplementary Figs. 1–29.

Video 1

Nano-grating patterned organic photovoltaic devices. Ultra-flexible 1D double-grating-patterned OPVs before delamination from the glass substrate.

Video 2

Self-powered ultra-flexible devices and their ECG signal monitoring. Self-powering integrated electronic device attached to the heart of a rat.

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Park, S., Heo, S.W., Lee, W. et al. Self-powered ultra-flexible electronics via nano-grating-patterned organic photovoltaics. Nature 561, 516–521 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0536-x

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Keywords

  • Organic Electrochemical Transistors
  • Photoactive Layer
  • PDMS Mould
  • High Transconductance Values
  • Parylene Film

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