Teens Rock Google Science Fair With Flexible Supercapacitors and Smart Bandages

Google Science Fair finalists demonstrate the power of flexible electronics

2 min read
A Google Science Fair finalist's design for a flexible, printed smart bandage to monitor moisture around a wound for better healing
This flexible, printed, smart bandage designed by a teen for the Google Science Fair monitors moisture around a wound for better healing.
Photo: Tekla Perry

When Singapore high school students Marion Pang Wan Rion, Joy Ang Jing Zhi, and Sonia Arumuganainar decided they wanted to experiment with the “next big thing” in electronics, they chose graphene-based supercapacitors. The three wanted to come up with a design for a supercapacitor that would be lighter and more flexible than current ones, like those used to collect energy from regenerative braking in electric cars.

img A team of high school students from Singapore designed a supercapacitor that could be painted onto the metal surfaces of an electric vehicle. Photo: Tekla Perry

Their approach—and one that earned them a place among 16 finalist teams in Google’s international science fair this year—was to develop a graphene paint that would adhere to any surface and still be stable and flexible. Paint frees the supercapacitor from the bulk of current models that must somehow fit into a car body. This supercapacitor can just be painted on the car body, explained 18-year-old Zhi.

In their early attempts, the graphene flaked off, Zhi told me during Google’s showcase for the international finalists, held Tuesday. Then, she said, they found the perfect additive—basic white school glue.

In the future, says Zhi, these flexible supercapacitors could be part of the band of a smart watch or used for biological implants.

Meanwhile, Anushka Naiknaware from Portland, Ore. was also looking to build light and flexible electronics. The 13-year-old wanted to create a sensor to monitor the moisture around a wound while avoiding bandage changes, which slow healing. She filled an inkjet cartridge with conductive ink to print her sensors on bandages, and developed a wearable monitor, intended to strap on a patient’s wrist, to collect data from the sensors. Naiknaware was awarded the Lego Education Builder Award, one of two prizes given for the best solutions to difficult engineering challenges at the event.

More on these projects, as well as the grand prize and other winners, here.

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3 Ways 3D Chip Tech Is Upending Computing

AMD, Graphcore, and Intel show why the industry’s leading edge is going vertical

8 min read
A stack of 3 images.  One of a chip, another is a group of chips and a single grey chip.
Intel; Graphcore; AMD

A crop of high-performance processors is showing that the new direction for continuing Moore’s Law is all about up. Each generation of processor needs to perform better than the last, and, at its most basic, that means integrating more logic onto the silicon. But there are two problems: One is that our ability to shrink transistors and the logic and memory blocks they make up is slowing down. The other is that chips have reached their size limits. Photolithography tools can pattern only an area of about 850 square millimeters, which is about the size of a top-of-the-line Nvidia GPU.

For a few years now, developers of systems-on-chips have begun to break up their ever-larger designs into smaller chiplets and link them together inside the same package to effectively increase the silicon area, among other advantages. In CPUs, these links have mostly been so-called 2.5D, where the chiplets are set beside each other and connected using short, dense interconnects. Momentum for this type of integration will likely only grow now that most of the major manufacturers have agreed on a 2.5D chiplet-to-chiplet communications standard.

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