A team of engineers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison aim to expand the capabilities and applications of wearable electronics. This led the team to create the world's fastest stretchable, wearable integrated circuits, a device that can advance IoT and consequently usher a much more connected, wireless world.

The research team says that the platform's key advantage lies in its unique structure - the stretchable integrated circuits that contain two, minuscule intertwining power transmission lines in repeating S-curves, much like a pair of twisted telephone cables. The serpentine coil – formed in layers with segmented metal blocks, akin to a 3D puzzle, allows the transmission lines to stretch while maintaining efficient performance.

Wearable circuits Figure 1: The technology can serve as a platform for manufacturers seeking to expand the capabilities and applications of wearable electronics. (Image source: Yei Hwan Jung and Juhwan Lee/University of Wisconsin-Madison)

It also helps shield the lines from outside interference and, at the same time, confine the electromagnetic waves flowing through them, almost completely eliminating current loss.

Currently, the researchers' stretchable integrated circuits can operate at radio frequency levels up to 40GHz.

The technology can serve as a platform for manufacturers seeking to expand the capabilities and applications of wearable electronics - particularly as they strive to develop devices that take advantage of 5G technology.

Unlike other stretchable transmission lines, whose widths can approach 640mm, the new stretchable integrated circuits are just 25mm thick. That's tiny enough to be highly effective in epidermal electronic systems, among many other applications.

The project's lead researcher Zhenqiang "Jack" Ma said "We've found a way to integrate high-frequency active transistors into a useful circuit that can be wireless."

Epidermal electronic systems (electronics that adhere to the skin) would allow the medical staff to efficiently monitor patients remotely and wirelessly, enhancing patient comfort by significantly decreasing the tangle of cables and wires.

The miniscule size of the stretchable circuits is enough to be highly effective in epidermal electronic systems, among many other applications.