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Flexible Electronics

Graphene… ready to wear!

The properties of graphene and layered materials enable the Flexible Electronics Work Package to develop flexible and wearable devices for many applications, ranging from wireless communications to solutions to monitor health and wellbeing.

We have a strong commitment to sustainability. Graphene can be a green alternative to the scarce raw materials traditionally used in electronics. We also focus our efforts on making devices with high recyclability, avoiding the ever-growing problem of waste accumulation. Thanks to low-emission manufacturing methods and the versatility of graphene-inks, we have developed several electronic devices using renewable substrates, like paper. This paves the way to eco-friendly electronics.

This year’s progress

Some promising results from the Flexible Electronics Work Package include graphene-enabled flexible devices for health applications. In particular, we developed electrodes covered in CVD-graphene to measure heart rate, even detecting a full electrocardiogram, providing information on the rhythm and electrical activity of the human heart. Our work package also works on new ways of interacting with digital devices, such as flexible touchpads. Much like the screens on smartphones, these graphene-enabled sensors interpret capacitive and force inputs and translate those into electrical pulses.

These graphene-enabled electrodes have been patented and perform better than traditional solutions. More importantly, they offer high-quality readings without the application of medical gels, which aligns with our sustainability efforts, reducing unnecessary products and offering higher reusability in medical settings. Already at technology readiness levels (TRL) 4 and 5, we believe these devices will soon be commercialised thanks to the Graphene Flagship’s innovation and business development efforts.

Many other flexible electronic devices could hit the market, all exploiting graphene and related materials. The Flexible Electronics Work Package has developed a graphene-based yarn that is already undergoing large-scale production trials. This material was incorporated in textiles and wearables as a proof-of-concept for integrated electronics.

We are also very proud of our paper-based electronics developments. This sustainable alternative to traditional silicon chips has found uses in security systems, screens, photodetectors and much more. We look forward to further developing the technology. It could speed up authentication processes, thanks to graphene-enabled tickets and documents directly printed with features like RFID. With a TRL between 7 and 8, these advances could become commercial realities before 2023.

Upcoming challenges

Large surfaces pose challenges for graphene-enabled wearables. We need better solutions for printing, as fabrics and textiles keep high conductivity when used in large areas. For now, we are focusing our efforts on applications that require smaller areas, such as heating and sensing – both have shown promise and advanced functionalities. In the future, we could also tackle these problems, exploiting different devices working in parallel. With multi-sensor systems and strategies, we could cover wider surfaces, then process the data retrieved using software-based approaches.

Work Package Leadership

Leader: Maria Smolander, VTT, Finland 
Deputy: Henri Happy, University of Lille, France

Division Leadership

Leader: Gianluca Fiori, UNIPI, Italy
Deputy: Henri Happy, UniLille, France

Latest Articles

Light bends electrons through graphene
Photonics / Electronics / Materials

Light bends electrons through graphene

Graphene Flagship researchers from ICFO in Barcelona, in collaboration with teams in Columbia University, US, NTU, Singapore and NIMS, Japan, have reported the first use of light to bend of electrons in bilayer graphene.

By ICFO and Graphene Flagship / 19 April 2022
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