Scientists are printing electronic circuits that spring up from a flat surface to form tiny 3D components. Cathal O’Connell reports.We have pop-up books and pop-up tents, now a team of US scientists has made pop-up electronics. The technique, a world-first, was reported in Science.
It involves printing circuits on to pre-stretched silicone rubber – when the tension is released they pop up into tiny gadgets. “In just one shot you get your structure,” says Yonggang Huang, an engineer at Northwestern University, one of the authors of the study.
Miniaturisation is the name of the game in electronics. That quest has taken us from flat circuits to 3D. But manufacturing microscopic 3D structures is a convoluted process that has resisted attempts over the past decade to speed it up. And it’s becoming more difficult. Intel describes its latest chips as “the most complex structures ever manufactured”. They contain billions of transistors connected by a 3D maze of copper all on a wafer of silicon the size of a fingernail. Making them takes more than three weeks as the device is shuttled back and forth between vast processing machines. They are patterned, etched, coated with metal and etched again, before they are ready to go to work. … (read more)