Could This Be the Most Functional Transistor in the World?

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Engineers at University of Wisconsin-Madison have successfully designed a flexible transistor. What sets this one apart from the many like it? It’s the most functional flexible transistor in the entire world. Better still, a fast and cost-effective fabrication process means it could very soon be commercialized.

Transistors are an essential factor in the success of modern electronics. The new model designed by engineers is a dramatic upgrade on an industry standard. Engineers took a bipolar complementary metal oxide semiconductor (BiCMOS), a thin-film transistor that possesses both analog and digital capabilities. This model is tough, powerful, and fast — and now, it’s bendable as well.

“The key is that parameters are important. One high-temperature step fixes everything—like glue. Now, we have more powerful mixed-signal tools. Basically, the idea is for flexible electronics to expand with this. The platform is getting bigger.”

Zhenqiang (Jack) Ma, the Lynn H. Matthias Professor and Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in electrical and computer engineering at UW-Madison

Normally the process of turning BCiMOS into flexible technologies is extremely difficult. It requires a lot of time and energy, with many complicated steps that must be completed to ensure the success of the transistor. Even the slightest change in temperature could ruin the whole process.

This is now a thing of the past; the new system for creating flexible transistors involves fabricating them on single-crystal silicon nanomembranes. This creates a single, bendable piece of plastic. The process removes many of the intermediary steps, cutting both time and costs as a result. The ease with which these flexible transistors can be fabricated means that commercialization is extremely likely; the whole process has been reduced from months to a single week. And the engineers believe that can further streamline and perfect the system for creating these much-needed flexible transistors.

It’s hard to overstate the practical applications of this device. Flexible transistors would all manufacturers to add a number of smart wireless capabilities to all sorts of products and devices. Not only would this increase the interconnectivity of our technology, it would be a major step forward for the ever-evolving Internet of Things.

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