Reducing Thermal Limitations of Flexible Electronics with Printed Architected Substrates


Reducing Thermal Limitations of Flexible Electronics with Printed Architected Substrates




Consumers and military personnel alike are demanding ubiquitous electronic devices which require enhanced flexibility and conformality of electronic materials and packaging, while maintaining device performance. Whether it be high-power devices for faster data speeds, such as fifth generation wireless communication technology or wearable sensors to facilitate the Internet of Things, the age of flexible, high performance electronic devices has begun. Managing the heat from flexible electronics is a fundamental challenge. Even on rigid substrates with significantly higher thermal conductivity than polymeric substrates, the full potential of semiconducting materials is often thermally limited. The flexible gallium nitride (GaN) transistors employed in this work are conventionally processed devices that can be released from their growth substrate and transferred to a variety of rigid and flexible substrates. Characterization of the GaN device behavior on the as-grown sapphire wafers provide a baseline for evaluation of engineered substrates. Thermal imaging of devices in operation reveals that the current passing through an as-grown GaN transistor reaches the target operating temperature at approximately five times the power of the same device transferred to a flexible substrate. Printable, thermally conductive nanocomposites integrating 1D, 2D, and 3D forms of carbon in a flexible polymer matrix, as well as metal nanoparticles, were developed to maximize heat transfer from electronic devices. The thermal conductivity of the candidate substrate materials was measured experimentally to have more than a 900 percent increase in thermal conductivity (from 0.2 to 1.7 W/mK), while maintaining desirable mechanical properties. The performance of devices transferred to these novel flexible composite substrates was characterized and used in computational simulations to predict flexible substrate architectures that effectively promote point-to-volume heat transfer to further improve device performance. Additive manufacturing for engineered architectures of the flexible, thermally conductive substrate materials was demonstrated to substantially reduce the thermal limitation of high-power flexible electronics.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Graduate Research

Primary Advisor

Christopher Muratore

Primary Advisor's Department

Chemical Engineering


Stander Symposium poster


Presenter: Katherine Morris Burzynski

Reducing Thermal Limitations of Flexible Electronics with Printed Architected Substrates