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Metamorphic Electronics For 3D Acoustics

Recent advancement in the field of electronics has taken a shift to enable the realization of mechanical stretchable electronic products. Mechanical stretchability is key to produce electronic systems, which morph to take on new form factors. However, current strategies have some limitations.

For example, wrapping of a standard PET bottle with electronics would greatly benefit from stretchable electronics with a tailored localized stretchability to better adapt to the shape of the bottle. Similarly, the human skin has areas of low and high stretchability. In other words, it is desired to realize stretchable electronics with a tailored local elastic module to enable a more seamless integration with 3D shaped objects or objects which change shape. Such a technology would help to realize “metamorphic electronic systems”, which are electronic products that change shape.

In a recent article published in Advanced Materials Technologies, a research group from Technische Universität Ilmenau, Germany demonstrated a metamorphic microphone array, which morphs from a concave to a planar to a convex shape, and to many other complex geometries. The research group developed a method to produce metamorphic integrated microphone arrays using a process. This is fully compatible with conventionally printed circuit board technology, commercially available surface mount devices, and robotic mounting methods.

The new morphing array enables a better sound source localization when compared to existing static and planar arrangements. According to the article, a change in morphology has an enormous influence on the device functionality. To go further, it would be possible to adjust the morphology of the structure for the desired functionality in real time.

The concept of metamorphic acoustoelectronic arrays enables many new applications in the acoustic sensing. For example, one could potentially wrap a stretchable array of ultrasonic sensors and/or emitters around various 3D objects. Applications range from material to medical diagnostics, applications of ultrasound-based imagers achieving a new quality.

The future of metamorphic electronics is enormous. Fully developed, any electronic product known today may take on new 3D shapes and interesting form factors in the future. However, the field is young, and there is plenty of room for discoveries, development, and new architectures.

This study, 3D Metamorphic Stretchable Microphone Arrays was recently published by Shantonu Biswas, Jörg Pezoldt, and Heiko O. Jacobs in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies. For more information or to contact the lead researcher, visit the research group from Technische Universität Ilmenau under the direction of Prof. Heiko O. Jacobs.

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About The Author

Shantonu Biswas is a postdoctoral researcher from the University of California, Santa Barbara in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering and Department of Mechanical Engineering. His research communities in the field of stretchable electronics. This is a special type of electronics or electronic systems which are stretchable and deformable, and which morph to adapt to new topologies and form factors. His research interest follows a similar interest to realize an electronics world where the user will shape their electronic devices at will to adapt their shapes and functionality.

Heiko Otto Jacobs is a professor and department chair at Technische Universität Ilmenau in the Institute of Micro- and Nanotechnologies. Professor Jacobs' overall research program deals with the development of integration technologies that can print, assemble, and interconnect materials and disparate components in two and three dimensions across existing length scales and material boundaries. His research group specializes in micro and nanomanufacturing technologies that enable novel devices and systems that are (1) heterogeneous in nature and (2) cannot be realized using a linear extension of existing methods.