A NOVEL FABRICATION METHOD FOR SURFACE INTEGRATION OF METAL STRUCTURES INTO POLYMERS (SIMSIP)

Open Access
Author:
Carrion-Gonzalez, Hector
Graduate Program:
Industrial Engineering
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
March 26, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Dr Sanjay Joshi, Dissertation Advisor
  • Sanjay B Joshi, Committee Chair
  • Stephen Joseph Fonash, Committee Chair
  • Richard Allen Wysk, Committee Member
  • Harriet Black Nembhard, Committee Member
  • Md Amanul Haque, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • flexible electronics
  • flexible displays
  • flexible antennas
  • electronic circuits
  • interconnects in polymers
  • bending tests
Abstract:
Recently developed flexible electronics applications require that the thin metal films embedded on elastomer substrates also be flexible. These electronic systems are radically different in terms of performance and functionality than conventional silicon-based devices. A key question is whether the metal deposited on flexible films can survive large strains without rupture. Cumbersome macro-fabrication methods have been developed for functional and bendable electronics (e.g., interconnects) encapsulated between layers of polymer films. However, future electronic applications may require electronic flexible devices to be in intimate contact with curved surfaces (e.g., retinal implants) and to be robust enough to withstand large and repeated mechanical deformations. In this research, a novel technique for surface integration of metal structures into polymers (SIMSIP) was developed. Surface embedding, as opposed to placing metal on polymers, provides better adherence while leaving the surface accessible for contacts. This was accomplished by first fabricating the micro-scale metal patterns on a quartz or Teflon mother substrate, and then embedding them to a flexible polyimide thin film. The technique was successfully used to embed micro-metal structures of gold (Au), silver (Ag), and copper (Cu) into polyimide films without affecting the functional properties of the either the metals or the polymers. Experimental results confirm the successful surface-embedding of metal structures as narrow as 0.6 µm wide for different geometries commonly used in circuit design. Although similar approaches exist in literature, the proposed methodology provides a simpler and more reliable way of producing flexible circuits/electronics that is also suitable for high volume manufacturing. In order to demonstrate the flexibility of metal interconnects fabricated using the SIMSIP technique, multiple Au electrodes (5 µm and 2.5 µm wide) were tested using the X-&#1138; bending methodology. The X-&#1138; bending test captures data on the electrical resistivity of micro Au electrodes fabricated using the proposed SIMSIP technique by bending them at different angles between 0o and 180o up to 50 times. The data shows that the electrical resistivity of the Au electrodes remains constant (<1% variation) despite the interconnects being repeatedly subjected to extreme tensile and compressive forces during the X-&#1138; bending test. These results are significant from the perspective of flexible electronics and biotechnology applications since the fabricated thin films exhibit significant electrical stability, reliability and wear resistance. These surface-embedded, flexible, and mechanically stable metal interconnects will enable the further development of new electronic products with applications in biotechnology (e.g., e-skin), space exploration (e.g., satellites), and microelectronics (e.g., flat panel displays). The SIMSIP technique is also a suitable process for the nanofabrication of flexible electronic devices in applications that require intimate contact with bendable curved surfaces (e.g., retinal implants).