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NUS Engineering to develop next-generation hybrid flexible electronics under new partnerships

NUS Engineering to develop next-generation hybrid flexible electronics under new partnerships

The National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of
Engineering secured S$4.9 million in 7 new partnerships to develop
next-generation hybrid flexible electronics.

According to a press
release
by the NUS, the Faculty of
Engineering has established 7 new partnerships under its Hybrid-Integrated
Flexible Electronic Systems (HiFES) programme to develop next-generation hybrid
flexible electronics.

Valued at about S$4.9 million in total, the
new partnerships will see NUS researchers and partners to co-create innovative
solutions to be applied in areas such as consumer electronics, healthcare,
defence and safety surveillance.

New partners of the HiFES programmes include leading
semiconductor companies such as MediaTek and Soitec, the United States Air
Force Office of Scientific Research, as well as Temasek Laboratories at NUS and
Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore at NUS.

The S$50-million HiFES programme was
established by NUS Engineering in October 2016. It aims to pioneer innovations
in hybrid flexible electronics, which could potentially reshape the electronics
industry.

Comprising 16 principal investigators and
more than 20 researchers with expertise in diverse areas in electronics and
materials, HiFES seeks to create hybrid electronic systems by integrating
conventional rigid electronics with flexible and stretchable components for a
wide range of new applications that includes wearables, Internet of Things
(IoT), remote sensing, artificial intelligence, and e-health.

“As we enter the IoT era, innovative
high-value electronics with fast time-to-market will be a key enabler.
Leveraging established semiconductor technologies, we believe hybrids of rigid
electronics with new soft functional materials will offer an increased palette
for technology innovations.” Professor Aaron Thean, Director of HiFES, said.

The projects have a strong focus on
technology translation and aim at developing commercially-ready applications to
address real-world challenges.

Under the partnership with MediaTek, NUS
HiFES researchers are working to develop a smart, human-wearable interface – in
the form of a flexible patch – which can achieve precise matching between
wearable devices and the location on the human body through advanced system
design. This platform technology can potentially be used for interactive media
and gaming, activity tracking and healthcare, as well as human-machine natural
interfaces, such as on-skin keyboards.

The collaboration between HiFES and Soitec
seeks to explore the use of strained silicon-on-insulator substrate and layer
transfer to develop advanced transistors for hybrid flexible electronics and
systems. The research could potentially lead to ultra-thin chips – 1,000 times
thinner than today’s semiconductor chips – on flexible substrates that can
enable next-generation wearable devices. 

Projects with other leading partners involve
the development of memristive nanomaterial-based reconfigurable interconnects
which can introduce artificial intelligence to flexible electronics, hence
enabling machine learning for new wearable medical devices and sensors.

Flexible terahertz array sources for safety
surveillance and quick detection of chemicals, drugs and explosives are also
among some of the exciting material-enabled projects being carried out under
the HiFES programme.

NUS researchers under the programme are also
collaborating with the United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research to
investigate the impact of thermal effects and mechanical stress on the radio
frequency performance of flexible transmit and receive modules. This is an
important problem to solve for antennas and radar systems, especially when the
devices are made flexible.

Research collaboration between HiFES and
Temasek Laboratories at NUS will also investigate novel phased array antennas
on flexible substrates to enhance wireless communication and remote sensing
systems.

These research partnerships are enabled by
the world-class research facility at the NUS.

Currently, the University is constructing a
new state-of-the-art nanofabrication facility to serve as a research platform
to foster greater collaboration between multi-disciplinary research groups from
within the University as well as industry and research partners.

Equipped with advanced process and material
characterisation capabilities, the new facility will enable integration of
semiconductor and additive-based processes like precision 3D printing, and
packaging, for new technology prototyping.

 “This
world-class facility, when fully operational, will accelerate the development
of disruptive, cutting-edge applications in hybrid flexible electronics. We are
keen to collaborate with more companies to bring novel technologies to market,”
Prof Thean added. 

This new facility is expected to be
operational by June 2018.