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Boise State Project Looks at Flexible Hybrid Electronics

By: Kathleen Tuck   Published 1:10 pm / February 17, 2017

Harish Subbaraman and David Estrada in the lab with students.

Harish Subbaraman, center, and David Estrada, right, in the lab with students.

A project from American Semiconductor and Boise State University is among four projects of 131 submitted that has been selected for funding from NextFlex, America’s Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE) Manufacturing Institute.

The selected projects are aimed at tracking and optimizing the performance of people and high-value materials and products, while also showcasing the technology’s capability to enhance our lives. Other award recipients include University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Massachusetts Lowell and Binghamton University.

Flexible Smart-TagsAmerican Semiconductor will develop and deliver low-profile, physically flexible Smart-Tags that can automatically log and wirelessly transmit environmental data using an industry-standard RFID protocol. Environmental exposure history, especially temperature, is crucial for assessing and maintaining the viability of pharmaceuticals, life science materials, industrial supplies, food and other perishables during shipment and storage. This low-cost system will include a flexible antenna, battery, complex integrated circuit and wireless communications.

Boise State University will provide workforce development, education and training for FHE design and manufacture. Plans also include developing new courses at Boise State University covering flexible and printed electronics topics.

David Estrada, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, is teaching one such course: “Nanoscale Transport” covers topics in electrical and thermal transport (how electrons and heat flow in materials) in nanoscale materials and devices, with an additional focus on two-dimensional materials such as graphene and MoS2. Harish Subbaraman, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, will offer another course titled “Flexible and Printed Electronics.”

Harash Subbaraman, David Estrada with lab students.“By some estimates, the printed and flexible electronics industry is projected to grow to a $75 billion market by 2025,” said Subbaraman. “American Semiconductor is a global leader in this market, and our hope is that this partnership will continue to grow in order to create new jobs and opportunities for Boise State students within this emerging area.”

The project will support two interns working closely with Boise State and American Semiconductor. Other students working on printed and flexible electronics are supported through state-appropriated research assistantships.

“The ability for Boise State University to join the NextFlex consortium and partner with companies like American Semiconductor is a direct result of investments from the state of Idaho, NASA EPSCoR, Air Force Research Laboratories and local industries,” said Estrada. “It’s all aimed at developing the additive manufacturing research infrastructure and expertise within the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering, the College of Engineering and the College of Business and Economics. It’s an exciting time to be a Bronco!”

Students in Estrada’s course also are working on a Flexible Hybrid Electronics project with the NASA Johnson Space Center to address important issues such as power harvesting from the space suit and strain monitoring for inflatable habitats.