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Organic-on-plastic chip unveiled

European engineers claim ubiquitous computing breakthrough.

A Belgian-Dutch team has created the first directly-deposited organic-on-plastic microprocessor (MPU), presaging a new low-cost option to add computing capabilities to everyday objects. Plastic electronics is also seen as an enabler of flexible devices for both low- and high-end uses.

The device, unveiled at this week’s International Solid State Circuits Conference, is described as “the direct realisation of an MPU by thin-film technology”. The 8b device has 4,000 transistors and was developed by the Imec research institute, Polymer Vision, TNO Science & Industry and KHLim.

“It is composed of two foils – a microprocessor foil and an instruction code foil – that can be connected one-to-one,” the researchers said. “Our MPU is processed directly onto [plastic] foil, following up on examples of MPU’s transferred to foil after processing at high temperatures on rigid substrates” (their italics).

The organic transistors were originally developed by Polymer Vision for use in active-matrix displays. They have a typical channel length of 5um and average saturation mobility of 0.19sq cm/Vs. The MPU foil itself is designed using only NAND gates and invertors.

MPU functionality was validated by using the device as a digital signal processor to increase the accuracy of a repetitive digital input by time-averaging.

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