The microelectronics technology and subsequent miniaturization have improved our lives through revolutionized computing, communication. The exponential rate of advancement based on Moore's Law has been propelled by $1Tr of investment over 50 years. Recent advances in the field, pursued through "More than Moore" technology, are propelled by burgeoning fields such as wearable systems, and healthcare and biomedical applications. Often these applications require electronics and sensors over large areas and conforming to 3D surfaces. Therefore, arises the need for sensors and electronics on unconventional substrates such as plastics and even paper. The sensitive electronics systems on large areas (larger than the traditional wafers) and stretchable substrates are other related developments, which will open new application avenues such as intelligent robotics enabled by conformable electronic skin wrapped around the body of a robot. An example of one such tactile or electronic skin for humanoid robot is shown in the figure.
This lecture will present various approaches (over different time and dimensional scales) for obtaining distributed electronics and sensors on flexible and conformable substrates, especially in context with tactile or electronics skin. The lecture will begin with recent developments such as using off-the-shelf sensors and electronic components on flexible printed circuit boards to obtain large area tactile skin for robots and wearable systems. This will be followed by various alternatives being explored today (e.g. printing of nanowires, and ultra-thin chips, etc.) and the potential challenges and success on various time scales. The lecture will conclude with a discussion on how the field and associated technologies may evolve in the future with new applications such as disposable solutions for health monitoring or skin-on-objects as enabler for emerging internet of things and smart cities and mobile health applications.
The research covered in this lecture has been supported by EPSRC and European Commission through following projects - PRINTSKIN, CONTEST, and FLEXELDEMO.
Dr. Ravinder Dahiya is Reader and EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Science Research Council) Fellow in the School of Engineering at University of Glasgow, UK. He is the leader of Bendable Electronics and Sensing Technologies (BEST) group, which conducts fundamental research on high-mobility materials based flexible electronics and electronic skin, and their application in robotics, prosthetics and wearable systems.