The Way of the Future - Flexible Electronics

Jan. 9, 2014 — Researchers at ETH are developing electronic components that are thinner and more flexible than before. They can even be wrapped around a single hair without damaging the electronics. This opens up new possibilities for ultra-thin, transparent sensors that are literally easy on the eye.

Niko Münzenrieder submerges a ficus leaf in water containing pieces of a shiny metallic membrane. Using tweezers, he carefully moves one of these pieces on to the leaf of the houseplant. On lifting the leaf, the film sticks to it like glue. The post-doctoral researcher is demonstrating the special characteristics of this electronic component in the form of an ultra-thin membrane, which he has helped to develop. "These new thin-film transistors adhere to a wide range of surfaces and adapt perfectly," explains the physicist.

In Professor Gerhard Tröster's Electronics Lab, scientists have been researching flexible electronic components, such as transistors and sensors, for some time now. The aim is to weave these types of components into textiles or apply them to the skin in order to make objects 'smart', or develop unobtrusive, comfortable sensors that can monitor various functions of the body.

Researchers are indeed working on an Electronics Membrane that can be wrapped around and applied to nearly any surface. You want to talk about Sci-Fi in real life? This is some serious Sci-Fi! Looking at a few of the applications, this should make our electronics come in stranger(sometimes less geared towards functional). Imagine having the ability to make ANYTHING electronic.

This does have practical limitations, considering how we have to integrate our electronics for function. However, perhaps there will come a day where we have gloves that can transfer funds from our bank accounts with a handshake. A small probe on your glasses that can broadcast to you in real time the wind direction, speed, atmospheric pressure, and temperature. That's an app for golfers, and snipers.

Even still, the fact that we are constantly reducing the size of our functional electronics is pretty amazing. This is one of those things that may not be entirely apparent to the average person until it's put to use. Science is still on the rise!