European researchers recently announced the development of the world’s first flexible organic microprocessor at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco CA. The novel technology harnesses organic semiconductors and has applications ranging from cheaper flexible displays and sensors to high-tech fashion and advanced e-readers.
The flexible microprocessor was developed by polymer and molecular electronics researchers at Imec (a Belgian nanotech research center). Jan Genoe, who led the research with colleague Kris Myny, explained that the largest hurdle in the development of this new technology was figuring out a way to control organic transistors. When it comes to structure, silicon often beats out organic alternatives because the monocrystalline structure allows for more consistent behavior.
In order to turn the current on for one of these transistors, you need to turn up the gate’s voltage to a known threshold. By adding an extra gate to the back of each organic transistor Genoe’s team was able to better control the electric field in the semiconductor, therefore eliminating the unpredictable performance.
Imec’s new flexible microprocessor could lead to an exciting range of applications – if wrapped around pipes it could record water pressure, or it may be used to package food and pharmaceuticals and could indicate whether your meat is rancid or if you forgot to take your meds.