Challenges & Opportunities for Aerospace Applications of Flexible Hybrid Electronics

B. Leever
U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory,
United States

Keywords: flexible electronics


By combining thinned devices based on inorganic semiconductors with components & interconnects that are 3D printed/additively manufactured on non-traditional substrates, Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE) offer the potential to provide significant size, weight, and power (SWaP) benefits without sacrificing performance. FHE are expected to impact a range of aerospace applications including: wearable electronics and sensors for monitoring airman health/performance; conformal electronics and antennas for maximizing space efficiency and reducing aerodynamic drag; and inherently more durable circuits that will withstand the extreme strain, shock, and vibration environments typical of aerospace missions. Related to these goals, this presentation will describe AFRL’s research toward injecting and printing gallium-based liquid metal alloys into varied materials for stretchable and reconfigurable electronics. We will also discuss the fabrication of Li-ion batteries based on structurally resilient carbon nanotube-based electrodes that have survived hundreds of folding cycles. The presentation will also discuss the development of inks and printing processes for printing components such as antennas, interconnects, batteries, and capacitors. Finally the presentation will detail the opportunity for NextFlex, America’s Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Institute, to advance of the state of flexible hybrid electronics manufacturing processes for these and other applications. As a public-private partnership, NextFlex will invest approximately $170M over the next five years to establish a domestic manufacturing ecosystem for flexible hybrid electronics.