Arizona State University is partnering with City University of Hong Kong (CityU) to advance flexible electronics systems. The "CityU-ASU Collaborative on Flexible Systems" was launched Nov. 2. The two universities paved the way for such projects when they signed a Memorandum of Understanding last April.

ASU is already a leader in developing flexible electronics through its Flexible Display Center, created in 2004 through a cooperative agreement with the United States Army Research Laboratory. The FDC seeks to accelerate the commercialization of flexible, lightweight, low-power and rugged display and electronics technologies.

Such devices could provide a wide variety of applications. For example, soldiers in the field could receive real-time maps, mission briefs and other information on screens sewn into their uniform sleeves. In the commercial realm, flexible displays offer possibilities for improving technologies from e-readers to conferencing systems.

In this alliance, ASU provides expertise and unique pilot line manufacturing capability in flexible microelectronics based on state-of-the-art amorphous silicon thin film transistor (TFT) technology, and emerging metal oxide TFT technology.

CityU offers expertise in flexible nanowires, a potential high-performance TFT technology. If nanowire TFTs can be implemented on a manufacturing scale, they could open the door to powerful new applications for flexible electronics.

ASU already has worked with CityU on a pending proposal for an NSF Engineering Research Center on Large Area Sensing Arrays. These arrays would use bendable transistors in a plastic sheet and could detect phenomena such as radiation or biomarkers for applications ranging from security to infrastructure health monitoring to assistive technology for the sight-impaired. The proposal is led by the University of Texas at Dallas and includes Princeton, North Carolina A&T State University and Seoul National University.

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