announced Tuesday that it has integrated an ultra-thin, flexible chip
with bendable and stretchable interconnects into a package that adapts
dynamically to curving and bending surfaces. The resulting circuitry can
be embedded in medical and lifestyle applications where user comfort
and unobtrusiveness is key, such as wearable health monitors or smart
clothing. At the 2012 ESTC conference (Electronics System Integration
Technology Conference) in Amsterdam (September 17-20, 2012), the
researchers will be present ing their results and showcase their latest
most electronic appliances are rigid, or at most mechanically flexible.
A growing number of applications, however, require electronics that
dynamically adapt to curving and bending surfaces. Some examples include
biomedical systems such as unobtrusive, wearable health monitors (e.g.
electrocardiogram or temperature sensors), advanced surgical tools, or
consumer electronics such as mobile phones embedded in smart textiles.
Imec’s associated lab at the University of Ghent has pioneered this
technology, moving it toward industrial applicability. Industrial
partners that want to build a critical lead in this field are welcomed
to join the R&D program.
the demonstration, the researchers thinned a commercially available
microcontroller down to 30 µm, preserving the electrical performance and
functionality. This die was then embedded in a slim polyimide package
(40-50 µm thick). Next, this ultrathin chip was integrated with
stretchable electrical wiring. These were realized by patterning
polyimide-supported meandering horseshoe-shaped wires, a technology
developed and optimized at the lab. Last, the package is embedded in an
elastomeric substrate, e.g. polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). In this
substrate, the conductors behave as two dimensional springs, enabling
greater flexibility while preserving conductivity.
electronic circuitry will stretch and bend like rubber or skin while
preserving its conductivity,” comments Jan Vanfleteren, responsible for
the research on flexible and stretchable electronics at imec’s Ghent
lab. “This breakthrough achievement demonstrates that flexible
Ultra-Thin Chip Packages (UTCP) can be integrated with stretchable
wiring, paving the way toward fully flexible applications. We anticipate
the first appliances will be used in intelligent clothing, with medical
applications following later. Once commercial products are introduced, I
expect to see clothing with signalization by using LEDs and sensors to
research is supported by the Agency for Innovation by Science and
Technology in Flanders (IWT) through the SBO-BrainSTAR project.