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Three-dimensional integrated stretchable electronics


Stretchable electronics is an emerging technology that creates devices with the ability to conform to nonplanar and dynamic surfaces such as the human body. Current stretchable configurations are constrained to single-layer designs due to limited material processing capabilities in soft electronic systems. Here we report a framework for engineering three-dimensional integrated stretchable electronics by combining strategies in material design and advanced microfabrication. Our three-dimensional devices are built layer by layer through transfer printing pre-designed stretchable circuits on elastomers and creating vertical interconnect accesses using laser ablation and controlled soldering. Our approach enables a higher integration density on stretchable substrates than single-layer approaches and allows new functionalities that would be difficult to implement with conventional single-layer designs. Using this engineering framework, we create a stretchable human–machine interface testbed that is based on a four-layer design and offers eight-channel sensing and Bluetooth data communication capabilities.

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Fig. 1: Design and characterizations of a four-layer stretchable system.
Fig. 2: VIA fabrication and a 10-layer decagram stretchable heater demonstration.
Fig. 3: Optical images and operational data from the four-layer stretchable device.
Fig. 4: Wireless robotic arm control.

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The project described was partially supported by the UC San Diego Center for Wearable Sensors, Center for Healthy Aging, Contextual Robotics Institute, and the National Institutes of Health Grant UL1TR001442 of CTSA funding. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH. We thank R. L. Sah’s group for assistance with the XCT measurements, M. Tolley for discussions on robot control, Z. Zhang for his contribution on data analysis, M. Li for discussions on Bluetooth, M. Makihata for discussions on the antenna test and S. Xiang for her constructive feedback on manuscript preparation.

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Z.H. and S.X. designed the experiments. Z.H., Y.H. and Y.Li carried out experiments. All authors contributed to analysing the data. Z.H. and S.X. wrote the paper, on which all authors provided valuable feedback.

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Correspondence to Sheng Xu.

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Huang, Z., Hao, Y., Li, Y. et al. Three-dimensional integrated stretchable electronics. Nat Electron 1, 473–480 (2018).

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