The term “paper-thin” doesn’t do justice to the technology being researched at the Someya-Sekitani Lab in Japan. Imperceptible Electronics are tactile sensors that can be bent, twisted, crumpled, submerged in liquid, stretched, and more all while performing typical sensor duties in an impossibly thin frame. The thinness of the sensors separates it from silicon-based sensors which are significantly more cumbersome in comparison.
The sensors are composed of organic transistors using both a carbon-based semiconductor and an aluminum oxide. The aluminum oxide (electroplated aluminum oxide dielectric) measures less than 20 nanometers, making it the primary reason the sensors can be so thin and innovative. This same innovation makes Imperceptible Electronics the thinnest and most flexible sensors currently developed.
These sensors can fit on nearly any three dimensional surface. They appear to be capable of conforming even to skin. This flexibility doesn’t come with much of a damper to its durability. The sensors can maintain functionality up to 170 degrees Celsius (338 degrees Fahrenheit) before beginning to fail. The sensors could also be crumpled up and stretched out without either impacting the sensors performance.
This innovation stands to open various doors to inventors and researchers. Researchers believe, in time, the sensor will advance consumer electronics, displays and robotics. At the moment, a large interest for Imperceptible Electronics comes in medicinal use. It is believed they can be used to create cheaper medical instruments and better health monitoring systems. They could be placed on the skin to register vitals, and perhaps even muscles themselves for rehabilitation.
For consumers, however, look for these sensors to show up in newer and more advanced wearable technology. Perhaps a jacket that holds your music like an mp3 player?