Flexible silicon-on-polymer chip created by ARL, American Semiconductor

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio. American Semiconductor and the Air Force Research Laboratory (ARL) teamed up to create a new smart, flexible silicon-on-polymer chip.

The collaboration resulted in new microcontrollers that are able to bend and flex, allowing them to integrate on systems such as wearable devices for hydration and fatigue monitoring and in soft for wounded warfighters or the elderly.

“Working with American Semiconductor, we took silicon integrated circuit chips and thinned them until they became flexible but were still able to maintain circuit functionality," Dr. Dan Berrigan, a research scientist at the AFRL Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, says. "This now allows us to place the microcontrollers—essentially minicomputers—in places we couldn’t before.

This helps bring things like wearable sensors into the ‘internet-of-things.’ Now you can monitor things like hydration levels, temperature, strain from an arm flexing, and more,” he adds.

Kerrigan points out the unique factor in this chip is that it the microcontroller includes memory that is able to control a system as well as collect data for future analyst.

“It’s capable of turning a system on and off, and it can also collect data from a sensor and retain it in memory,” Kerrigan says. “We can wrap this type of chip around a fuel bladder sensor to detect leaks, use it to monitor munitions inventory and even augment cold-chain monitoring through temperature sensing. Enhancing logistics is just one of many ways this effort can help meet Air Force needs.”

The flexible system-on-chip received the “Best New Material or Component Development Award” in the Wearable Technology Category at the 2017 IDTechEx Show, distinguishing it as a significant development for enabling wearable technology devices.

The yearlong effort to produce these devices was also sponsored in part by the Department of Defense Rapid Reaction Technology Office which supports emerging technology demonstrations to accelerate the delivery of solutions to meet current and future warfighter needs.

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