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NEWS
Record-Setting Flexible Phototransistor Revealed
December 4, 2015

Inspired by mammals’ eyes, University of Wisconsin–Madison electrical engineers have created the fastest, most responsive flexible silicon phototransistor ever made.

Developed by UW-Madison electrical engineers, this unique phototransistor is flexible, yet faster and more responsive than any similar phototransistor in the world. Photo courtesy of Jung-Hun Seo.

The innovative phototransistor could improve the performance of myriad products — ranging from digital cameras, night-vision goggles and smoke detectors to surveillance systems and satellites — that rely on electronic light sensors. Integrated into a digital camera lens, for example, it could reduce bulkiness and boost both the acquisition speed and quality of video or still photos.

Developed by UW–Madison collaborators Zhenqiang “Jack” Ma, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and research scientist Jung-Hun Seo, the high-performance phototransistor far and away exceeds all previous flexible phototransistor parameters, including sensitivity and response time.

The research team recently published details of their advance in the journal Advanced Optical Materials.

Like human eyes, phototransistors essentially sense and collect light, then convert that light into an electrical charge proportional to its intensity and wavelength. In the case of our eyes, the electrical impulses transmit the image to the brain. In a digital camera, that electrical charge becomes the long string of 1s and 0s that create the digital image.

While many phototransistors are fabricated on rigid surfaces, and therefore are flat, Ma and Seo’s are flexible, meaning they more easily mimic the behavior of mammalian eyes.

“We actually can make the curve any shape we like to fit the optical system,” Prof. Ma notes. “Currently, there’s no easy way to do that.”

Ultimately, the new phototransistors will open the door of possibility for future advancements, he says.

“This demonstration shows great potential in high-performance and flexible photodetection systems,” explains Prof. Ma, whose research was supported by the U.S. Air Force. “It shows the capabilities of high-sensitivity photodetection and stable performance under bending conditions, which have never been achieved at the same time.”

The researchers are patenting the revolutionary technology through the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

This article reprinted from materials provided by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


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