Engineers Develop World’s Most Functional and Flexible Transistor

Literal flexibility may bring the power of a new transistor developed at UW-Madison to digital devices that bend and move. / Photo courtesy of Jung-Hun Seo, University at Buffalo, State University of New York

As well creating the most functional, flexible transistor in the world, the team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has also come up with a new process in which to fabricate them. It’s simple, fast, and inexpensive and a method that could easily be scaled up to a commercial level.

This kind of advancement could lead to other exciting applications involving ‘smart’ wireless technology, including things like wearable sensors and computers that can stretch, bend, and curve. Transistors are a key component in modern electronics, and this new advancement looks to change a standard that’s been in place for the past two decades.  It’s a BiCMOS (bipolar complementary metal oxide semiconductor) transistor that brings together two types of technologies on one platform.

The devices that use both analog and digital capabilities are ideal for many portable electronics used today including cell phones. “The industry standard is very good,” says Zhenqiang (Jack) Ma, the Lynn H. Matthias Professor and Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of electrical and computer engineering at UW-Madison. “Now we can do the same things with our transistor – but it can bend.”

Traditionally, making BiCMOS flexible takes several months, partly because of the number of steps involved. With Ma’s new method, the team cut this time down considerably by fabricating their flexible electronics on a single-crystal silicon nanomembrane on a solitary piece of bendable plastic. “In industry, they need to finish these in three months,” says Ma. “We finished it in a week.” Ma is quite confident that the process is ready to be scaled for commercial use now.

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