On 11th May, 1998, India achieved a major technological breakthrough by successfully carrying out nuclear tests at Pokhran. The day also marks the successful testing of Trishul missile and the first flight of the indigenous aircraft Hansa 3. Hence the day is commemorated as the National Technological day every year. This year at IIT Kanpur, the event was coordinated by the National Center of Flexible Electronics, which was established in 2014.
The event consisted of a lecture showcasing the stunning work in flexible electronics, along with numerous demonstrations.
Prof. Y. N Mohapatra, who coordinated the event, elaborated that the problem with conventional electronics is that it’s primarily based on silicon, which is expensive to work with. Single crystals of silicon need to be grown, requiring high temperature which requires small wafers, increasing the cost.
With flexible electronics, the aim is to be able to literally “Print Circuits” on a large scale, on plastics and papers. A primitive example of this is the conducting ink. It makes it possible for conduction to happen along the lines drawn on a material, which makes trying circuits by just drawing on a piece of paper.
This also allows the creation of conducting fabric, which can be worn, acting like a Faraday cage, or used to securely shield cards or devices from external influence.
The new idea of printing circuits will also revolutionize lighting, as it allows the creation of efficient OLED panels of light, giving off uniform light from a large area, in contrast to conventional LEDs that are basically point sources.
This also paves the way for the creation of flexible displays.
The technology for printing circuits is now at a primitive stage. Methods such as evaporation need to be adopted. If printing of circuits become as easy as is of newspaper using them will be very cost effective and viable. Today, printing is used to create flexible heaters, which can be used anywhere.
In addition, flexible sensors would be handy in medical sector and the packaging sector where one needs to keep track of temperature, freshness, humidity etc. Most Importantly, it’s application in the renewable solar energy will be substantial, allowing creation of cheap and lightweight solar panels on a mass scale that can be worn, folded and carried. A lot of research on foldable solar cells is being done around the globe.
There are 4 major challenges in bringing it to the common people:
- Understanding Low Temperature processing.
- Retaining properties while making it flexible.
- Robustness against environmental degradation.
- Printing circuit in large area to make them cost effective.
Along with the students, professors and their families, school children from the city were also invited to the event. The event ended with walk through demos.
(All images taken from lecture footage)
Written by Hemant Kejriwal