Jan 252011
 
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Researchers have demonstrated a simple, cheap way to create self-assembling electronic devices using a property crucial to salad dressings.

It uses the fact that oil- and water-based liquids do not mix, forming devices from components that align along the boundary between the two.

The idea joins a raft of approaches toward self-assembly, but lends itself particularly well to small components.

The work is reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Crucially, it could allow the large-scale assembly of high-quality electronic components on materials of just about any type, in contrast to “inkjet printed” electronics or some previous self-assembly techniques.

Specific gravity

Such efforts have until now exploited the effect of gravity, assembling devices through so-called “sedimentation”.

In this approach, “blank” devices are etched with depressions to match precisely-shaped components. Simply dumped into a liquid, the components should settle down into the blank device like sand onto a riverbed, in just the right places.

“That’s what we tried for at least two years and we were never able to assemble these components with high yield – gravity wasn’t working,” said Heiko Jacobs of the University of Minnesota, who led the research.

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