Literal flexibility may bring the power of a new transistor developed at UW–Madison to digital devices that bend and move. (Credit: Jung-Hun Seo, University at Buffalo, State University of New York)

A team of engineers has created the most functional flexible transistor in the world — and with it, a fast, simple and inexpensive fabrication process that’s easily scalable to the commercial level.

It’s an advance that could open the door to an increasingly interconnected world, enabling manufacturers to add smart, wireless capabilities to any number of large or small products or objects including wearable sensors — that curve, bend, stretch and move.

The researchers fabricated their flexible electronics on a single-crystal silicon nanomembrane on a single bendable piece of plastic. The secret to their success is their unique process, which eliminates many steps and slashes both the time and cost of fabricating the transistors. The much simpler high-temperature process can scale to industry-level production right away.