Engineers at the University of California Berkeley have developed a means that will enable medical researchers to prototype test new wearable sensor designs faster. Typically, researchers would build island-bridge systems using photolithography, but this is a multistep process using light to create patterns on semiconductor wafers that requires a clean room and sophisticated equipment.
The new technique is simpler, faster and more economical, especially when making one or two dozen samples for testing. Renxiao Xu developed the technique while pursuing his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Berkeley. To achieve low-strain flexibility on wearable sensors, engineers use an “island-bridge” structure, Xu said. The islands house rigid electronics and sensor components, and the bridges link the islands to one another. Their spiral and zigzag shapes stretch like springs to accommodate large deformations.