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Printable Sensors Power A Drum That Rolls Up Like A Yoga Mat

This new MEMS technology will also bring us luggage that weighs itself.

1 min read
Printable Sensors Power A Drum That Rolls Up Like A Yoga Mat

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What would you do with a thin piece of plastic that is sensitive to touch? Jupiter Hu, director of the flexible electronics technology division at Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), has a few ideas for a technology that allows pressure sensors to be printed on sheets of plastic.

He envisions it used in semiconductor manufacturing, to monitor wafer polishing. In healthcare, he says, a thin sheet of sensors laid under a mattress could provide early warning of pressure points

that could turn into bedsores. Smart phones could come with a rollout keyboard—no more fat-finger errors. With weight sensors molded into luggage handles, your suitcase (right) could weigh itself and warn you that you’d over packed before you got to the airport.

And printable sensors make a really cool drum, as demonstrated in the video, top.

These printable sensors are a form of Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). ITRI calls its version of the sensors Micro Deformable Piezoresistive Sensor Technology. ITRI is not the only research group working on flexible MEMS technology—researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are stamping MEMS on plastic. But Hu says ITRI’s version can cover a larger area at a lower cost than other approaches.

While none of these products are on the market yet, luggage manufacturers and other companies are currently testing the technology. ITRI has spun out a company to market the technology, and has set up a manufacturing line for mass production.

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3D-Stacked CMOS Takes Moore’s Law to New Heights

When transistors can’t get any smaller, the only direction is up

10 min read
An image of stacked squares with yellow flat bars through them.
Emily Cooper

Perhaps the most far-reaching technological achievement over the last 50 years has been the steady march toward ever smaller transistors, fitting them more tightly together, and reducing their power consumption. And yet, ever since the two of us started our careers at Intel more than 20 years ago, we’ve been hearing the alarms that the descent into the infinitesimal was about to end. Yet year after year, brilliant new innovations continue to propel the semiconductor industry further.

Along this journey, we engineers had to change the transistor’s architecture as we continued to scale down area and power consumption while boosting performance. The “planar” transistor designs that took us through the last half of the 20th century gave way to 3D fin-shaped devices by the first half of the 2010s. Now, these too have an end date in sight, with a new gate-all-around (GAA) structure rolling into production soon. But we have to look even further ahead because our ability to scale down even this new transistor architecture, which we call RibbonFET, has its limits.

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