Research Overview nanoelectronics photovoltaics Programmable Materials

Electronic Skin: large-area sensor networks

    From an engineering standpoint, human skin acts as our interface with the environment. The goal of our research program on electronic skin (e-skin) is to develop thin, flexible substrates that mimic certain properties of human skin, and enable a new form of human-machine interfacing. In essence, e-skin consists of mechanically flexible sensor networks that can wrap irregular surfaces, and spatially map and quantify various stimuli (example: Nature Materials, 9, 821–826, 2010; Nature Materials, 2013, in press). Our long term vision is to heterogeneously integrate a wide range of sensor networks (e.g., pressure, strain, light, temperature, and humidity) and associated electronics on large-area plastic substrates using process schemes that are compatible with conventional Si or LCD manufacturing lines. In parallel, we are exploring printing technologies for the fabrication of the envisioned systems. The sensor elements are based on a-Si, oxides, metals, piezoelectrics, and/or organic materials that are processed at <350 °C.

    The resulting e-skin may find a wide range of applications in interactive input/control devices, smart wallpapers, robotics and medical/health monitoring devices. Towards achieving this long-term goal, most recently we have demonstrated a prototype e-skin device that not only spatially maps the applied pressure but also provides instantaneous response through a built-in active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) display.  In this system, OLEDs are turned on locally where the surface is touched, and the emitted light intensity quantifies the magnitude of the applied pressure. This work represents a “system-on-plastic” demonstration where various organic and inorganic materials, and three distinct electronic components – TFT, pressure sensor, and OLED arrays - are monolithically integrated over large-areas on a single plastic substrate (Nature Materials, 2013, in press). This project spans surface chemistry, materials processing, device design and process technology, circuit design and systems integration.

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Artificial electronic-skin

Nanopillars on metal foil

Roll-2-roll nanotextured Al

WSe2/InAs van der Waals heterojunctions

Printed nanowire arrays