Large-area, flexible proximity-sensing surfaces are useful in a range of applications including process control, work security and robotics. However, current systems typically require rigid and thick electronics, which limit how they can be used. Here we report a flexible large-area proximity-sensing surface fabricated using printed organic materials and incorporating analogue front-end electronics in each pixel. The sensing surface is built with printed thin-film pyroelectric sensors based on poly(vinylidene fluoride-co-trifluoroethylene) co-polymers and printed organic thin-film transistors. A 5 × 10 matrix frontplane, consisting of long-wavelength infrared organic pyroelectric sensors, is laminated with an organic transistor analogue front-end backplane. The electronic front end provides sensor-signal amplification and pixel addressing to maximize the detection distance and reduce pixel crosstalk. An average yield of 82% fully working pixels for the backplane and a maximum system yield of 96%, which corresponds to 768 defect-free devices, are achieved. The system can detect a human hand approaching from different directions and track the position of a movable heat source up to a distance of around 0.4 m at a readout speed of 100 frames per second.
Your institute does not have access to this article
Subscribe to Nature+
Get immediate online access to the entire Nature family of 50+ journals
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $8.25 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
All relevant data in this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.
Someya, T. et al. A large-area, flexible pressure sensor matrix with organic field-effect transistors for artificial skin applications. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 101, 9966–9970 (2004).
Someya, T. et al. Cut-and-paste organic FET customized ICs for application to artificial skin. In 2004 IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference (IEEE Cat. No.04CH37519) 1, 288–529 (IEEE, 2004).
Schwartz, G. et al. Flexible polymer transistors with high pressure sensitivity for application in electronic skin and health monitoring. Nat. Commun. 4, 1859 (2013).
Yokota, T. et al. Sheet-type flexible organic active matrix amplifier system using pseudo-CMOS circuits with floating-gate structure. IEEE Trans. Electron Devices 59, 3434–3440 (2012).
Zirkl, M. et al. An all-printed ferroelectric active matrix sensor network based on only five functional materials forming a touchless control interface. Adv. Mater. 23, 2069–2074 (2011).
Fattori, M. et al. Organic pressure-sensing surfaces fabricated by lamination of flexible substrates. IEEE Trans. Compon. Packag. Manuf. Technol. 8, 1159–1166 (2018).
Magic Pad in Organic Electronics Association (OE-A) brochure. http://www.isorg.fr/actu/8/magic-pad-in-organic-electronics-association-oe-a-brochure_69.htm (2019)
Gold, H. et al. Flexible single-substrate integrated active-matrix pyroelectric sensor. Phys. Status Solidi RRL 13, 1900277 (2019).
Fattori, M. et al. A gravure-printed organic TFT technology for active-matrix addressing applications. IEEE Electron Device Lett. 40, 1682–1685 (2019).
Cheung, E. & Lumelsky, V. A sensitive skin system for motion control of robot arm manipulators. Rob. Auton. Syst. 10, 9–32 (1992).
Wistort, R. & Smith, J. R. Electric field servoing for robotic manipulation. In 2008 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems 494–499 (IEEE, 2008).
Hsiao, K., Nangeroni, P., Huber, M., Saxena, A. & Ng, A. Y. Reactive grasping using optical proximity sensors. In 2009 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation 2098–2105 (IEEE, 2009).
Terada, K. et al. Development of omni-directional and fast-responsive net-structure proximity sensor. In 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems 1954–1961 (IEEE, 2011).
Lumelsky, V. Sensitive skin. IEEE Sens. J. 1, 41–51 (2001).
Gelinck, G. et al. Flexible active-matrix displays and shift registers based on solution-processed organic transistors. Nat. Mater. 3, 106–110 (2004).
van Lieshout, P. et al. A flexible 240×320-pixel display with integrated row drivers manufactured in organic electronics. In ISSCC 2005 IEEE International Digest of Technical Papers. Solid-State Circuits Conference 1, 578–618 (IEEE, 2005).
Raiteri, D. et al. Positive-feedback level shifter logic for large-area electronics. IEEE J. Solid-State Circuits 49, 524–535 (2014).
Abdinia, S. et al. Organic CMOS line drivers on foil. J. Disp. Technol. 11, 564–569 (2015).
Crone, B. et al. Large-scale complementary integrated circuits based on organic transistors. Nature 403, 521–523 (2000).
Fujitsuka, F. et al. Monolithic pyroelectric infrared image sensor using PVDF thin film. In International Conference on Solid-State Sensors and Actuators 1237–1240 (IEEE, 1997).
Binnie, T. D. et al. An integrated 16×16 PVDF pyroelectric sensor array. IEEE Trans. Ultrason., Ferroelectr., Freq. Control 47, 1413–1420 (2000).
Pullano, S. A. et al. A pyroelectric sensor for system-on-a-chip. In 2014 40th Annual Northeast Bioengineering Conference (NEBEC) 1–2 (IEEE, 2014).
Scheipl, G. et al. Fabrication, characterization and modeling of PVDF based organic IR-sensors for human body recognition. SENSORS 2009 IEEE 1252–1255 (IEEE, 2009).
Chen, X. et al. A flexible piezoelectric-pyroelectric hybrid nanogenerator based on P(VDF-TrFE) nanowire array. IEEE Trans. Nanotechnol. 15, 295–302 (2016).
Hossain, A. et al. Pyroelectric detectors and their applications. IEEE Trans. Ind. Appl. 27, 824–829 (1991).
Hughes, D. et al. A robotic skin for collision avoidance and affective touch recognition. IEEE Robot. Autom. Lett. 3, 1386–1393 (2018).
Xia, F. et al. Tri-mode capacitive proximity detection towards improved safety in industrial robotics. IEEE Sens. J. 18, 5058–5066 (2018).
Hasegawa, H. et al. Net-structure proximity sensor: high-speed and free-form sensor with analog computing circuit. IEEE/ASME Trans. Mechatronics 20, 3232–3241 (2015).
Fattori, M. et al. Flexible pressure and proximity sensor surfaces manufactured with organic materials. In 2017 7th IEEE International Workshop on Advances in Sensors and Interfaces (IWASI) 53–58 (IEEE, 2017).
Johnson, J. B. Thermal agitation of electricity in conductors. Phys. Rev. 32, 97–109 (1928).
Weller, H. J. et al. Low-noise charge sensitive readout for pyroelectric sensor arrays using PVDF thin film. Sens. Actuators, A 85, 267–274 (2000).
Fattori, M. et al. Circuit design and design automation for printed electronics. In 2019 Design, Automation & Test in Europe Conference & Exhibition (DATE) 42–47 (IEEE, 2019).
We would like to acknowledge financial support from the European Commission for the projects ATLASS (Horizon 2020, Nanotechnologies, Advanced Material and Production theme, contract no. 636130, to M.F., J.F., E.C., M.C., D.L., S.L., C.L., L.T., S.J, K.R., R.C., H.G., M.A., M.Z., J.G., A.T., M.P., B.L., B.S. and J.S.).
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information
Nature Electronics thanks Jan Genoe and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Supplementary Figs. 1–10, Tables 1–6 and Discussion.
Demonstration of human hand detection with the proposed proximity-sensing surface not equipped with the funnel array.
Demonstration of localized heat source detection with the proposed proximity-sensing surface not equipped with the funnel array.
Demonstration of localized heat source detection with the proposed proximity-sensing surface equipped with the funnel array.
About this article
Cite this article
Fattori, M., Cardarelli, S., Fijn, J. et al. A printed proximity-sensing surface based on organic pyroelectric sensors and organic thin-film transistor electronics. Nat Electron 5, 289–299 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41928-022-00762-6