The flat screen of the future can be round: SDU researcher wants to make stretchable electronics
Jakob Kjelstrup-Hansen from the Mads Clausen Institute has received a grant of DKK 2.9 million for a project that will develop stretchable electronics that can later be used in, among other things, clothing and biomedical implants.
"Imagine a screen shaped like a football. Electronics usually sit on a flat surface, but with stretchable and flexible electronics, it can take all kinds of forms."
These are the words of Associate Professor Jakob Kjelstrup-Hansen from the Mads Clausen Institute. He has just received DKK 2.9 million from the Independent Research Fund Denmark for a project that has been given the bite-sized name 'Stretchable Organic Electronics Through In-Operando Studies (NO-STRESS)'.
And Jakob Kjelstrup-Hansen is of course right. A flat screen is inherently flat. And so it is with most electronics. It is flat. However, flat-screen TVs may soon be as outdated as the medieval idea that the earth is flat. Soon, electronics will be like our planet - able to bend like the curved surface of the Earth.
Stretchable and flexible electronics have the potential to revolutionise the way we interact with electronics and integrate it into our daily lives. It opens up new forms of technology that are more adaptable, comfortable and durable. Flexible electronic circuits are thus essential for soft robots, wearable technology and biomedical applications.
"Stretchable and flexible electronics can be integrated directly into clothing and textiles, opening up possibilities such as intelligent clothing that can monitor health status, collect physiological data or interact with the environment. It can also be used in biomedical implants that can monitor the body's functions," says Jakob Kjelstrup-Hansen.
What happens at the microscopic level?
One of the biggest challenges in the development of stretchable electronics is that the majority of materials traditionally used in electronic circuits are not stretchable. That is why alternative solutions are needed.
In addition, there is a lack of a basic understanding of the precise relationship between changes in the microscopic structure of materials during stretching and their impact on electrical properties.
The grant from the Independent Research Fund Denmark means that Jakob Kjelstrup-Hansen, together with the project's collaborators, now has the opportunity to develop methods that make it possible to investigate what happens to the electrical properties of materials when they are stretched.
"In short, we investigate what happens when some organic materials are stretched 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 percent and so on. What happens at the microscopic level? When does a molecule begin to move in relation to the neighbouring molecule, so that the properties change?" says Jakob Kjelstrup-Hansen.
The project will also work on developing stretchable electronics. Instead of a traditional, flat surface, the project will use a wavy structure, as previous research has shown that a wave-shaped surface provides less stretch along the surface. In a slightly preconceived example, we can imagine an accordion. The wavy structure of an accordion gives it a natural ability to stretch and fold in an expanded or compressed state.
"In reality, the surface probably looks more like an egg tray than an accordion, but the principle is the same. The structures minimise the mechanical impact on the electronic components during stretching. By achieving this balance between extensibility and maintaining performance, it is expected that it will be possible to create robust, stretchable and flexible electronics," says Jakob Kjelstrup-Hansen.
The research project is a collaboration between SDU, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY). The project will combine expertise in electronics, materials science and advanced characterisation methods to achieve its goals.
Stretchable electronics open up new forms of technology that are more adaptable, comfortable and durable. Here are a few benefits of stretchable electronics:
Extensibility: The ability to stretch and bend allows the electronics to adapt to different shapes and movements. This is essential for applications such as soft robots, where flexibility and adaptability are needed.
Comfort and portability: Stretchable electronics can be integrated directly into clothing and textiles, providing a comfortable and effortless user experience. It enables the development of lightweight and flexible wearables that can be worn comfortably throughout the day.
Durability and resilience: Stretchable electronic circuits are more resistant to damage caused by bending, stretching and deformation. This makes them more durable and suitable for applications in environments with movement and load.
Possibility of integration: Stretchable electronics can be easily integrated into existing components and materials, opening up new design possibilities and applications.