Researchers Create First Fully Integrated Flexible Electronics for ‘Electronic Skin’

one year ago by Alessandro Mascellino

Researchers from Dresden, Chemnitz, and Osaka have announced the first fully integrated flexible electronics, thus opening the path towards the development of ‘electronic skin’.

The results from the new study—whose researchers include the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research Dresden, the Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research, and AIST scientists)—were published in the journal Science Advances, and they describe a combination of complex electronic circuits with individual magnetic sensors to achieve fully integrated devices.

In particular, the research focuses on the development and low-voltage operation of an imperceptible organic electronic system, based on only p-type organic thin-film transistors capable of integrating all components required for the operation of an active magnetosensory (relating to the sensing of magnetic fields) matrix system (MSM).


Electronic skin designed by the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research Dresden

Flexible electronic skin that is equipped with an array of giant magnetoresistance sensors and complex electronics circuitry, which are collectively designed and developed for sensing the distribution of a magnetic field. Image Credit: The Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research Dresden.


Emulating Human Skin

In order to replicate the complex properties of human skin, scientists have been focusing on robotic applications that rely on electronic and magnetic field sensing functionalities necessary for positioning and orientation in space.

Advancements in this field have made it possible to reproduce the flexible and compliant nature of human skin, allowing robotic devices to operate on soft and elastic surfaces while sensing various physical properties via readout circuits.

However, to fully replicate the nuances of natural skin, a huge number of individual sensors need to be linked together. Early attempts saw scientists trying to solve this issue by addressing an array of individual sensors. This understandably resulted in bulky components with an excessive number of electronic connections.

To overcome this issue, scientists had to develop a way to combine complex electronic circuits, such as shift registers, amplifiers, current sources and switches with individual magnetic sensors—to achieve what is referred to as ‘fully integrated devices’.


Active magneto-sensory matrix circuit.

Figures detailing the use and function of magnetic e-skin developed by Osaka University. Image Credit: Masaya Kondo, ISIR, Osaka University, PhotoBio-OIL.


The Breakthrough of Fully Integrated Devices

The new university research has pushed the boundaries of flexible electronics and electronic skin technology further by developing an active matrix magnetic sensor system where all electronic components are based on organic thin-film transistors and are integrated within a single platform.

“Our first integrated magnetic functionalities prove that thin-film flexible magnetic sensors can be integrated within complex organic circuits,” said Dr Daniil Karnaushenko and Dr Oliver G. Schmidt, director at the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research Dresden.


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