Flat-panel displays are rapidly replacing cathode-ray tubes as the monitors of choice for computers and televisions, a commercial success that has opened the era of macroelectronics, in which transistors and other micro-components are integrated over large areas. In addition to the flat-panel displays, other macroelectronic products include x-ray imagers, thin-film solar cells, and thin-film antennas. Like a microelectronic product, a macroelectronic product consists of many thin-film components of small features. While microelectronics advances by miniaturizing features, macroelectronics does so by enlarging systems. Macroelectronic products today are mostly fabricated on substrates of glass or silicon; they are expensive, fragile and not readily portable when their areas are large. To reduce cost and enhance portability, future innovation will come from new choice of materials and of manufacturing processes. For example, thin-film devices on thin polymer substrates lend themselves to roll-to-roll fabrication, resulting in lightweight, rugged and flexible products. These macroelectronic products will have diverse architectures, hybrid materials, and small features. Their mechanical behavior during manufacturing and use poses significant challenges to the creation of the new technologies. A recent review paper by Suo et al. describes ongoing work in the emerging field of research – mechanics of flexible macroelectronics, with emphasis on the mechanical behavior at the scale of individual features, and over a long time. The following topics have been discussed in the paper:
Why many macroelectronic systems will be organic/inorganic hybrid structures, and how they can be made flexible.
A way to realize stretchable electronics by using compliant thin-film patterns of stiff materials.
How to achieve high ductility of thin metal films on polymer substrates and fatigue of metal films subject to cyclic loads.
Cracking in brittle materials such as oxides, nitrides and amorphous silicon on polymer substrates.
Nathan, A., Chalamala, B.R. (editors), 2005. Special Issues on Flexible Electronics Technology, Proc. IEEE 93, 1235-1510.
Z. Suo, J.J. Vlassak and S. Wagner, Micromechanics of macroelectronics. China Particuology 3, 321-328 (2005). (Check out the reference of this paper for a comprehensive list of recent literature related to the above research topics)