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Creating flexible sensors for medical apps in half the time

03 Nov 2015

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Kang created a coating about 20µm to 50µm, made of a silicon-like material called an elastomer, to easily remove the sensors, made of gold and chromium, from the silicon wafer. This was tricky work. The coating had be sticky enough to allow researchers to build the sensors in the first place, but loose enough to allow them to peel off the wafer.

"It's a Goldilocks problem," Coleman said.

The process doesn't require any chemical solvents. That means the sensors can be peeled off with any kind of adhesive, from scotch tape to a lint roller, as researchers demonstrated in the study.

Coleman's team also showed that the sensors could be fabricated on a curved, flexible film typically used to manufacture flexible printed circuits and the outside layer of spacesuits. Researchers were able to easily peel off the sensors from the curved film without compromising their functioning.

In order to make the sensors more like peel-off stickers, researchers essentially had to build the sensors upside down so that their functioning part would be exposed after they were removed from the wafer. This was key to allow for easy processing with a single peel-off step.

The researchers also demonstrated that the sensors they built with the novel fabrication process were functional. They placed a sensor on a subject's forehead and hooked it up to an electroencephalography machine. The sensors were able to detect a special brain signal present only when the subject's eyes were closed, a classic electroencephalogram testing procedure. The researchers also demonstrated that these sensors are able to detect other electrical rhythms of the body, such as the heart's electrical activity detected during an electro-cardiogram or EKG.


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