SCIENCE CHINA Information Sciences, Volume 61 , Issue 6 : 060410(2018) https://doi.org/10.1007/s11432-018-9442-3

Review on flexible photonics/electronics integrated devices and fabrication strategy

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  • ReceivedMar 27, 2018
  • AcceptedApr 26, 2018
  • PublishedMay 15, 2018



This work was supported by National Basic Research Program of China (973) (Grant No. 2015CB351904) and National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 11625207, 11320101001, 11227801).


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  • Figure 1

    (Color online) A brief timeline of the development of flexible electronics based on organic semiconductor materials and stretchable and flexible inorganic devices: first organic semiconductor material [31]@Copyright 1977 American Physical Society; first organic field effect transistor [32]@Copyright 1986 American Institute of Physics; organic electronics review [37]@Copyright 2004 Springer Nature; skin inspired sensors [43]@Copyright 2015 American Association for the Advancement of Science; large-scale integrated circuits [44]@Copyright 2016 John Wiley and Sons; organic-inorganic hybrid CMOS [45]@Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V; first flexible inorganic electronic [46]@Copyright 2006 Springer Nature; flexible near-field communication [47]@Copyright 2014 John Wiley and Sons; epidermal electronics for diagnostics [48]@Copyright 2015 John Wiley and Sons; flexible and stacked circuits [49]@Copyright 2016 John Wiley and Sons.

  • Figure 2

    (Color online) The method of fabricating large-scale organic electronics. (a) Photograph of the thin films formed at liquid substrate using S-FTM and D-FTM, and schematic for possible mechanism for macroscope orientation in D-FTM (left); device configuration of the fabricated OFET and output OFET characteristics of PBTTT-C14 films prepared by D-FTM parallel, D-FTM perpendicular and S-FTM (right) [69]@Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V. (b) Schematic diagram of the home-built ONW printer and NW printing process. Field emission scanning electron microscope image showing cross section of well-aligned polyvinylcabazol (PVK) NW, which forms a perfect circle (top); schematic illustration of the process to fabricate organic FET with nanoscale channel length and channel width and scanning electron microscope images of P3TH:PEO-blend NW and nano-sized electrode gap (down) [42]@Copyright 2013 Springer Nature. And (c) schematic illustration of the inkjet-NTP process and schematic illustration of an ink droplet filling the recessed nanochannels of a selected area of the mold through capillary-driven flow. Schematic illustration of a liquid bridge formed by a polar liquid layer between the nanowires and a substrate (inset); a photographic image of the large-scale integrated electronic devices composed of FET, inverter, and p-n diode arrays made of single-crystal organic nanowires [44]@Copyright 2016 John Wiley and Sons.

  • Figure 3

    (Color online) (a) Scheme of the screen-printing process [77]Copyright 2016, John Wiley and Sons. (b) Rotary screen printing [80]@Copyright 2012 Elsevier Ltd. (c) Screen-printed AgNW patterns on flexible PET substrate [77]@Copyright 2016 John Wiley and Sons. (d) Measured resistance of the screen-printed AgNW lines at different length and with various line widths [77]@Copyright 2016 John Wiley and Sons. (e) Screen-printed graphene line with the width of 40 $\mu$m [81]@Copyright 2014 John Wiley and Sons.

  • Figure 4

    (Color online) (a) Fabrication steps of $\mu$CP [87]@Copyright 2009 John Wiley and Sons. (b) Comparison of a typical T-NIL and UV-NIL process [88]@Copyright 2012 IEEE. (c) Roll-to-roll UV-NIL, (i) resist coating and (ii) imprinting [89]. (d) Photograph of the 3-level patterned wafer master[88]@Copyright 2012 IEEE.

  • Figure 5

    (Color online) (a) Transfer printing via microstructured elastomeric[58]@Copyright 2010 National Academy of Sciences; (b) adhesion test of transfer printing via microstructured elastomeric[58]@Copyright 2010 National Academy of Sciences; (c) laser-driven transfer printing[101]@Copyright 2012 IEEE; and (d) diagram of the automated printing setup[59]@Copyright 2016 American Chemical Society.

  • Figure 6

    (Color online) Flexible OFETs. (a) Optical image and schematics of the fabricated OFET sensor on a flexible polyimide substrate (left). Transfer characteristics of $I_{\rm~sd}$ vs. applied liquid-gate voltage $V_{\rm~lg}$ in DI water (right). The flexible OFET is alternately exposed to DI water and seawater [68]@Copyright 2014 Springer Nature. protectłinebreak(b) Schematic of the pentacene OTFT with silk fibroin as the gate dielectric and photograph of the rollable pentacene OTFT (left). Output characteristics, transfer and leakage current characteristics (right) [66]@Copyright 2011 John Wiley and Sons. (c) Schematic diagram of the flexible OFETs, and chemical structures of pentacene and Cytop (left). The leakage current density of AlOx:Nd/Cytop versus curvatures (middle); inset: the image of equipments in bending test. Transfer characteristics of the flexible pentacene OFET (right) under bending conditions; every curve includes forward and reverse sweeps [112]@Copyright 2015 The Royal Society of Chemistry. (d) Schematic device architecture of the flexible organic transistor with controlled nanomorphology (left). Transfer curves of the flexible device with the $n$-PVP/SiO$_2$ (2 nm) dielectric fabricated on transparent polyimide substrate (middle). Mobility plots as a function of bending distance under tensile and compressive bending stress (right) [113]@Copyright 2016 American Chemical Society.

  • Figure 7

    (Color online) Flexible organic systems on large scale. (a) Large-area single P3HT:PEO-blend NW FET array (7 cm $\times$ 7 cm) with $\sim$ 300 nm channel length (144 bottom-contact devices) and histogram of mobility for large-area P3HT:PEO-blend NW FET array with an average of 3.8 $\pm$ 1.6 cm$^2$V$^{-1}$s$^{-1}$. Large-area single P3HT:PEO-blend NW FET array on polyarylate (PAR) substrate and input-output voltage characteristic for complementary inverter circuit based on P3HT:PEO-blend NWs and N2200:PEO-blend NWs. Optical image of inverter array and schematic illustration of an inverter (down) [42]@Copyright 2013 Springer Nature. (b) A photograph of organic TFT devices on 1-$\mu$m-thick parylene-C films, organic device films conforming to a human knee and cross-section diagram of a thin organic TFT devices (top). Top-view photograph of a completed 10 cm $\times$ 10 cm fully printed 20 $\times$ 20 TFT array fabricated on an ultra-flexible parylene-C film, circuit diagram of the TFT array and flexible TFT array sheet conforming to a human throat (middle). Photograph of fabricated unipolar organic diode-load inverter circuits and circuit diagram of the inverter device. Static transfer characteristics of the inverter and small-signal gain as a function of input voltage (VIN). The black solid line indicates the characteristics without strain and the red solid lines indicate those of circuits under 50% compressive strain (down) [115]@Copyright 2014 Springer Nature. And (c) schematic of the function of a biological somatosensory systems, voltage pulses are generated in the skin and transported to the brain. DiTact is composed of a pressure-sensitive tactile element and an organic ring oscillator (top). Optogenetic pulses are used to stimulate live neurons. Image and circuit schematic of a model hand with DiTact sensors on the fingertips connected with stretchable interconnects (middle). Setup of the optoelectronic stimulation system for pressure-dependent neuron stimulation (down) [43]@Copyright 2015 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

  • Figure 8

    (Color online) (a) Schematic illustration of light scattering by nanoparticles in the SWNT/AgNW-nanocomposite (left), photographs of a nanocomposite film as prepared (middle), current efficiency-luminance (right) [119]@Copyright 2014 Springer Nature. (b) Schematic diagram of the cross-section of the planarized fabric substrates and the designed noninverted top-emitting OLEDs, photographs of the fabricated OLEDs when wrinkling the sample and operating the sample at 4.5 V (left), current density-voltage characteristics and bending image (middle), current efficiency-current density characteristics and optical microscope image of emitting cells operated at 5 mA/cm2 (right) [120]@Copyright 2013 Elsevier B.V. (c) PLED structures of devices using a fiber substrate (left) and a photograph of the fabricated device on a fiber substrate using the dip coating method (right) [79]@Copyright 2015 John Wiley and Sons. (d) Schematic illustration of a hole-injection process from a graphene anode via a self-organized HIL with work-function gradient (GraHIL) to the NPB layer (left), current efficiencies of phosphorescent OLED devices using 4L-G-HNO3 and ITO anodes (right) [121]@Copyright 2012 Springer Nature. (e) Cross-section diagram of the proposed flexible OLED display device composed of a LTCF, TFE, and a RGB OLED microcavity (left), the comparison of the measured data for the reflectance produced by only color filters and LTCFs with an OLED microcavity to verify the effect of a destructive interference of the microcavity (middle), optical image of a foldable/seamless OLED display (right) [24]@Copyright 2011 John Wiley and Sons. And (f) schematic top view of one pixel of flexible AMOLED display panel (left), photographs of electrophosphorescence from RGB subpixels of the display (middle) and display demonstration (right) [122]@Copyright 2012 John Wiley and Sons.

  • Figure 9

    (Color online) (a) Schematic illustration of transfer process of conductive electrodes of silver nanowire films [123]@Copyright 2010, Springer Nature; (b) schematic illustration of fabrication process of high stretchability device [51]@Copyright 2008 National Academy of Sciences; (c) SEM image of an array of CMOS inverters [51]@Copyright 2008 National Academy of Sciences; (d) an array integrated on a hemispherical glass substrate [124]@Copyright 2008 Springer Nature; (e) an electrode array with a mesh design on a dissolvable silk substrate [125]@Copyright 2010 Springer Nature; (f) SEM image of a multifunctional electronics conformal contacting with the skin [126]@Copyright 2013 John Wiley and Sons; (g) peeling rugged and breathable forms of stretchable electronics off the skin [20]@Copyright 2014 Springer Nature; and (h) photo illustrates the conformity of a device for near-field communication[47]@Copyright 2014 John Wiley and Son.

  • Figure 10

    (Color online) (a) Device design (left) and schematic illustration (middle) of a device able to work on human wounds to provide data of surgical wound healing (right) [127]@Copyright 2014 John Wiley and Sons. (b) A multimodal wireless epidermal sensor. (left) Exploded view schematic diagram and images of the sensor on the skin. (middle) Representative variations in dielectric properties of the skin for frequencies between 1 MHz to 1 GHz, evaluated using a coaxial cable probe. (right) Minimal variations occur between 160 MHz to 200 MHz [128]@Copyright 2014 John Wiley and Sons.protectłinebreak (c) Schematic diagram (left), images (middle) and experiment result of pulse wave from radial artery(right) of a flexible sensor on the skin [129]@Copyright 2016 IEEE. And (d) schematic illustration (left), images (middle) and Resistance change while the arm twisting and rotating (right) of water proof and vapor permeable property of flexible devices [130]@Copyright 2015 Springer Nature.

  • Figure 11

    (Color online) (a) A flexible LED arrays wrapped on a human thumb [132]@Copyright 2011 John Wiley and Sons. (b) A microsupercapacitor used for photo detector system [133]@Copyright 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. protectłinebreak(c) Skin-like flexible photonic device with colorimetric temperature indicators deformed in a twisting motion [134]@Copyright 2014 Springer Nature. (d) The schematic diagram (left) and images (middle) of adaptive flexible optoelectronic camouflage systems. The simple pattern displayed on the devices while bent (right) [135]@Copyright 2014 National Academy of Sciences. (e) Schematic diagram (left) and images (middle) of a near-field wireless optoelectronics device. Images of water tank with single-loop antenna, working devices under the water, and a swimming mouse that has a working device (right) [136]@Copyright 2016 Elsevier Inc. (f) Schematic diagram (left), images (middle) of epidermal optoelectronic devices and SpO2 and pulse rate (right) [16]@Copyright 2017 John Wiley and Sons.

  • Figure 12

    (Color online) (a) Schematic illustration of an integrated wearable platform based on s-SWNT [138]@Copyright 2015 American Chemical Society. (b) (left) Electrical connecting sketch of device. (middle) Image of device when the heart relaxes in diastoles. (right) Output voltage measured by AD/DA card [97]@Copyright 2015 Springer Nature. (c) An exploded-view schematic (left, highlighting the key functional layers) and a photograph (middle) of a completed capacitively coupled flexible sensing system with 396 nodes in a slightly bent state. (right) A photograph of a flexible capacitively coupled sensing electronic system on a Langendorff-perfused rabbit heart [139]@Copyright 2017 Springer Nature. protectłinebreak(d) Electrophysiological recordings with inset images of the low modulus compliant system on the skin: electrocardiogram (ECG), electromyogram (EMG), electrooculogram (EOG) and electroencephalogram (EEG) [140]@Copyright 2017 Springer Nature. (e) (left) Schematic of blood glucose monitoring system on-skin. (middle) The biosensor completely conforms to the skin surface. (right) Results of blood glucose measured by using a plasma blood test with a vein detained needle (red) and blood glucose monitoring system on-skin (blue) during the OGTT [17]. And (f) (left) planar view optical image of multifunctional device with skin-like physical characteristics and capabilities in both sensing and stimulation. (right) Images of a device mounted on the forearm, with examples under stretching, compressing, and peeling-off [48]@Copyright 2015 John Wiley and Sons.