Smaller is better – also and especially in microelectronics. For this to remain feasible in the future, an astounding “folding technology” will now conquer the third dimension.
Currently, the components of microelectronics are created layer by layer based on a two-dimensional template. However, this is not the ideal solution for components such as microbatteries, coils, or transformers. They are complicated to manufacture in this way and it is difficult to achieve the required properties. Because of this, scientists worldwide are looking for new solutions that also include the third dimension.
One possible method is self-organized folding of microelectronic layer systems. After they have been defined two-dimensionally with established technologies, they change themselves into three-dimensional origami architectures. For example, “self-organization” could be triggered by specifically releasing tension in the layer systems. Structures would then snap together automatically like a stretched spring if they were released from an anchor.
Self-organized folding is used, for example, in microelectronic nanomembranes. But since the yield and reliability of these microscopic origami structures leave much to be desired, it has not been possible to establish an industrial process to date.
3D energy storage with self-organization
But this could soon change. Scientists at the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research Dresden have solved a major problem with the 3D manufacture of architectures from microelectronic nanomembranes. Their “magnetic” origami method is able to create highly efficient microelectronic components with a high degree of reliability.
To do this, the scientists use what is probably the simplest method of folding, namely rolling up nanomembranes, a process that has been established for many years. The new feature, however, is a sort of magnetic remote control that programs and controls the folding and rolling process through a magnetic field applied externally. With this method, it has been possible for the first time ever to implement the three-dimensional arrangement of nanomembranes in a reproducible, controlled manner across large length scales in the centimeter range with a yield of more than 90 percent.
The extremely lightweight, three-dimensional micro-energy storage elements produced with this method have excellent characteristics. Magnetic micro-origami demonstrates its strengths especially with well-aligned three-dimensional structures with many windings. This is the case, for example, with innovative microbatteries and passive electronic components, such as capacitors, inductors, and transformers. However, upscaling the technology for mass production remains a challenge.
Original publication: Felix Gabler, Dmitriy D. Karnaushenko, Daniil Karnaushenko, Oliver G. Schmidt; Magnetic origami creates high performance micro devices, Nature Communications 2019. DOI:10.1038/s41467-019-10947-x