New transistor shows promise for wearable tech


Washable and bendy, the component marks a watershed in a highly competitive area. Andrew Masterson reports.


Coming soon to a store near you? A washable, wearable transistor.

Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST)

A newly invented fibrous organic transistor coated in a crystalline nanostructure looks set to revolutionise the rapidly growing field of wearable tech.

The transistor, which comprises a double-stranded assembly of electrode microfibres inside an organic semiconductor sheath, was designed by a team led by Soo Jin Kim from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology. It is described in the journal Advanced Materials.

According to the researchers, the transistor can be easily incorporated into textiles, and will behave identically to clothing fabric.

In experiments, the device continued to work without interruption not only after being repeated bent and twisted, but also after being immersed several times in a strong detergent solution.

This last property is likely to prove particularly attractive to developers working at the intersection of fashion and functionality. Many current designs for wearable tech rely on the electronic components being removeable, to avoid the twin hazards of system failure and wearer electrocution – a situation which severely constrains the design possibilities for garments.

The researchers report that the proof-of-concept transistor lost only 20% of its efficiency after being wound tightly around a small cylinder 1000 times.

The device was also capable of delivering currents two orders of magnitude above those currently available from commercial wearable tech transistors – but was operational at just 1.3 volts.

"The results of this study point to a new device structure that can overcome the limitations of current electronic textiles, including low current, high activation voltage, and low resilience to washing,” says co-author Jung-ah Lim.

“We expect that our study will contribute to the development of even smarter wearable products in the future, including next-generation wearable computers and smart clothing that can monitor vital signs.”

  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/adma.201900564
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