A team of researchers from The University of Texas, Dallas, in collaboration with the University of Tokyo, went one step further in the development of implantable adaptive electronics by exhibiting a soft and malleable 3D device, capable of adjusting to the body’s shape and responding to its temperature, according to the science news website Nanowerk.
The team has been working on shape-memory polymers (SMP) in the form of thin-film transistors, a type of material that allows electronic devices to change and restore shape according to their exposure to a stimulus, such as light or heat, as they go from being rigid to soft and adjustable 3D objects.
This discovery, recently published online (Mechanically Adaptive Organic Transistors for Implantable Electronics), allows researchers to overcome a functional barrier of these devices, which currently don’t adjust to the shapes of the body and don’t respond to the body’s temperature and humidity, according to Jonathan Reeder, a PhD student working in Dr. Walter Voit’s Advanced Polymer Research Lab, in an interview with Nanowerk. By using these two stimulus, “we allow electronics to adapt to the dynamic and curvilinear environment inside the body, all while maintaining excellent electrical properties,” he explained.
The research on these adaptive electronics is an ongoing project. Some barriers need to be crossed before scientists reach the final solution, as Michael Berger, author of the Nanowerk article, describes. It is necessary to combine high mobility with low voltage operation, to achieve the safety and stability of the devices as their inside the body and to guarantee the biocompatibility of electronic material.
To Berger, this new research, which is being advanced by UT Dallas together with the collaboration of the Texas Biomedical Device Center and other Dallas-area scientists, represents the next step in designing future biomedical devices that will be able to be used to treat conditions and abnormalities in the cerebral cortex, spinal cord, and peripheral nervous system.
The previous results of this research area have also been published as “An Ultralightweight design for Imperceptible Plastic Electronics and Three-Dimensional Flexible Electronics Enabled by Shape Memory Polymer Substrates for Responsive Neural Interfaces.”