Go on, bend, punch and step on this transistor

Built with carbon nanotubes, these electronics can be run over, hammered and laundered without harm

A high heel shoe is pushed into a new flexible transistor developed by researchers from Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) and the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST). A paper on the transistor was published in Nano Letters.

A high heel shoe is pushed into a new flexible transistor developed by researchers from Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) and the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST). A paper on the transistor was published in Nano Letters.

Japanese researchers have developed stretchable, tough electronics that could be incorporated into clothing, transforming wearable technology.

The flexible transistors can take a serious beating and can even be laundered along with clothing, according to the researchers from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) and the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST).

Possible applications include embedding the transistors into clothing to monitor health signs, as well as using them for the basis of synthetic sensitive skin covering humanoid robots.

All electronic devices developed so far contain brittle materials such as metals and thus cannot live up to the natural softness and flexibility of clothing, AIST researcher Atsuko Sekiguchi and colleagues wrote in the journal Nano Letters.

With the aim of creating a transistor made entirely of supple materials, the eight researchers embedded a rubber matrix with carbon nanotubes, a super-strong conductive material that has recently been used as the basis for a new nonvolatile memory.

The resulting material consists of hydrocarbon polymers and long single-walled carbon nanotubes arranged in a network structure. It retained both the electrical conductivity of the nanotubes and the softness of rubber.

The researchers produced the transistor in a variety of designs, including a circle with a concentric arrangement of channels. It has 110 percent elasticity and will still work even after being hammered, run over by a car and stepped on with high-heel shoes.

"Although previous reports have demonstrated one or two aspects of robustness, our aim was to develop a wearable device that could tolerate all the 'punishments' our clothes experience, for example, stretching, bending, and twisting, as well as compression, impact and laundering," the researchers wrote. "To date, this level and diversity of robustness have never been reported for any electronic device."

The transistor could be used in "health monitors, wearable communication devices, robotic skins, and so on," Sekiguchi said via email. It would be difficult to estimate how much the device might cost, the researcher added.

While use in wearable computers has been a major focus of flexible electronics, the concept has also been applied in other ways, including health-monitoring sportswear and brain implants that can directly monitor and stimulate cells.

Tim Hornyak covers Japan and emerging technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Tim on Twitter at @robotopia.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags popular scienceAtsuko SekiguchiNational Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technologyconsumer electronicsComponentsJapan Science and Technology Agency

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tim Hornyak

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?