Stretchable electronics can be stretched, folded, bent and twisted like a rubber band while functioning like the conventional electronic device. This capability enables extensive applications impossible for hard, planar integrated circuits. Examples include flexible displays, stretchable biosensors, sensory skins, and bio-inspired eyeball cameras. Conformal electronics is an important category in which an electronic device is in a non-flat state, normally a complex 3D geometry, under normal operating conditions. Under existing fabrication techniques, the electronic systems are usually designed and fabricated as a flat sheet and then transformed into the targeted 3D shape. This introduces distortions that have an adverse impact on device performance and functionality. This research project will advance techniques for the computer-supported creation of customer-specified stretchable conformal electronics devices. Outcomes of this research will enable the development of more complex, higher-performing stretchable and conformal electronic devices with applications across a broad and growing array of industries such as consumer electronics, healthcare, automotive, aerospace, and textiles. The project also includes activities to incorporate innovative research with teaching and outreach activities. A focal point of this is education of displaced unskilled workers in the areas of computer-aided design and advanced manufacturing.

This research aims to create and evaluate a systematic framework for rational design of stretchable conformal electronics by integrating conformal geometry theory with the level-set-based topology optimization approach. This research will harness both computational and experimental approaches to pursue the following aims: 1) Extend the level-set-based multimaterial topology optimization to flexible electronics design to simultaneously optimize rigid electronic components and soft electrical interconnects. 2) Devise new numerical algorithms based on the conformal geometry theory to design the patterns of stretchable electronics devices in 2D planar layout, which will yield the desired patterns of conformal electronics on 3D freeform surfaces after geometric transformation. 3) Identify effective approaches to topology optimization with geometric feature control, considering the fabrication process of stretchable electronics. 4) Validate the effectiveness of the mapping and optimization methods using the electronic eye camera as a testbed.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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University of Colorado at Boulder
United States
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