Modern technology can do many things, but bend is not one of them. New research out of Michigan State University could change that.
The research team has developed a stretchable integrated circuit that can be made using a common inkjet printer.
The researchers say this technology could be used to create an extremely thin tablet that can be stretched from small to large or a bendable wrist monitor to chart heartbeats. The circuit could potentially be printed on wallpaper to turn a wall into an electronic display.
Aside from flexibility, another benefit of the discovery is that it can be made more inexpensively than many technologies because it can be done on an inkjet printer, lead researcher Chuan Wang said.
"We can conceivably make the costs of producing flexible electronics comparable to the costs of printing newspapers," Wang said.
The fabric is made up of nanomaterials and organic compounds that are dissolved in a solution to produce electronic inks, which are run through the printer to make the devices. The ink was used to created the stretchy material, circuit and organic light-emitting diode (OLED).
A standard tablet contains millions of pixels below its screen, so the next step in the research is to combine the circuit and OLED into a single pixel, something Wang says will take between one and two years.
Once that combination is created, the smart fabric could be available in a commercial market, Wang said.
"We have created a new technology that is not yet available," Wang said. "And we have taken it one big step beyond the flexible screens that are about to become commercially available."