The platform developed by University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers may help manufacturers expand the capabilities and applications of wearable electronics — including those with biomedical applications — particularly as they strive to develop devices that take advantage of a new generation of wireless broadband technologies referred to as 5G .
With wavelength sizes between a millimetre and a metre, microwave radio frequencies are electromagnetic waves that use frequencies in the 0.3 gigahertz to 300 gigahertz range. That falls directly in the 5G range.
In mobile communications, the wide microwave radio frequencies of 5G networks will accommodate a growing number of cellphone users and notable increases in data speeds and coverage areas.
In an intensive care unit, epidermal electronic systems (electronics that adhere to the skin like temporary tattoos) could allow health care staff to monitor patients remotely and wirelessly, increasing patient comfort by decreasing the customary tangle of cables and wires.
What makes the new, stretchable integrated circuits so powerful is their unique structure, inspired by twisted-pair telephone cables, researchers said.
They contain, essentially, two ultra-tiny intertwining power transmission lines in repeating S-curves.
This serpentine shape — formed in two layers with segmented metal blocks, like a three dimensional puzzle — gives the transmission lines the ability to stretch without affecting their performance.