The ability to print microelectronics on ultrathin film creates unprecedented possibilities. At Holst Centre on the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, TNO and its partners are working on promising innovative applications. A newly developed technology uses sensors to measure temperature at many different points over a large area simultaneously. This enables extremely accurate monitoring of batteries used in applications such as electric vehicles and laptops. Healthcare also stands to benefit from this invention.

Screen printing technology is adequate

To print sensors on film that is just 100 microns thick, it is not necessary to invest in ex-pensive advanced equipment: current screen printing technology is adequate. As part of a Proof of Concept, experts employed by TNO printed hundreds of sensors on a sheet measuring one metre by half a metre. Rather than local, single point measurement, tem-perature can now be measured over a large area.

Flexible and ultrathin

The flexible ultrathin film on which the microelectronics are printed can be used in vari-ous applications. Measuring the temperature at different points on the body of a patient in a hospital bed and incorporating sensors in athletes’ clothing are two obvious examples.

Electric vehicle batteries consist of several thousand components, all of which can be monitored at cell level with this technology. A similar application could conceivably be built into laptops to detect overheating at an early stage. The technology also offers a so-lution in industrial processes where temperature is a crucial factor.

Stable and accurate at extreme temperatures

Sensors printed on flexible film will replace chips on printed circuit boards in equipment and machines as a means of measuring temperature. The thickness of printed circuit boards makes them less useful in devices where every tenth or hundredth of a millimetre counts.

Printed sensors have several advantages: they are potentially highly stable, they ensure high measurement accuracy and they are able to operate over a wide range of temperatures from cold to hot. This combination makes this technology unique in the world. In principle, this same technology can be used as part of an integrated printed sys-tem to measure variables other than temperature, such as humidity and pressure.

Further optimisation

TNO is now optimising the technology and providing a Proof of Principle to show that it can be used on a larger scale. The idea is to create a spin-off company that will make the technology market ready. TNO Technology Transfer is working closely with venture builder HighTechXL at the High Tech Campus to bring this about. Talks are already un-derway with potential clients in the automotive and healthcare sectors.

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