Stretchable Silicon will Adapt to Body Contours

Stretchable siliconAs a crystalline material, silicon is inherently rigid but researchers at the University of Illinois have found ways of embedding it in deformable materials that allows flexible and stretchable integrated circuits to be created. Amongst other applications, these can be used for wearable electronics that mould to the body's shape and can be distorted without loss of performance.

The mechanical characteristics are achieved "through carefully optimized mechanical layouts and structural configurations" said John Rogers who continued that "the overall buckling process yields wavy shapes that vary from place to place on the integrated circuit, in a complex but theoretically predictable fashion."

The stretchable integrated circuits were made by using special techniques incorporating aligned arrays of nanoribbons of single-crystal silicon as the semiconductor on a thin substrate that in turn is bonded to pre-strained silicone rubber. Once that strain is released, the integrated circuit concertenas into a complex pattern of buckling that allows the result to accommodate a wide range of deformations.

Rogers asserted that "We're opening an engineering design space for electronics and optoelectronics that goes well beyond what planar configurations on semiconductor wafers can offer".