Large Investments Are Directed Towards Development of Flexible, Sensible Sensors

Large investments have been made to enable flexible, thin sensors rather than rigid sensors. $75 million was recently awarded by the US Department of Defense to establish a new Manufacturing Innovation Institute (MII) for flexible hybrid electronics in San Jose, California. Under the acronym FHE MII, this new entity will follow a hub and node approach managed by the FlexTech Alliance.

According to the news release, the federal funding will be complemented by $96 million from non-federal sources, including the City of San Jose, private companies, universities, several U.S. states, and not-for-profit organizations. In total $171 million will be invested over a five year period, giving a significant boost for flexible electronics.

Meanwhile in France a startup company called Isorg is building a new production line to print flexible sensors. Construction of the 3,000 square meter facility started last June and will cost a total of €20 million ($22 million). Once completed, the production line will be the first of its kind to manufacture optical sensors on plastic.

Printable electronics Isorg has developed the technology to make organic photodetectors (OPD). Unlike conventional silicon-based photodetectors, they use organic semiconductors to absorb light and generate an electrical current. While organic light-emitting diodes (OLED) have already become mainstream on our smartphone displays, the OPD is relatively unknown and does not even have its own entry on Wikipedia. What makes an OPD so unique is the fact it can be printed directly over large areas.

What’s more, the materials are inherently flexible, enabling much more design freedom in terms of size and form factor. However, printing an electronic sensor is very different from printing a newspaper as it involves multiple layers of specialized inks at carefully controlled thicknesses. The requirements are so high that a conventional print house does not have the right equipment for the job.Read more

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