Engineers create flexible phototransistor to outperform all others

New and improved flexible phototransistors could lead to a faster and more responsive way to sense light in many products. 

Image By: Courtesy of Jung-Hun Seo via UW-Madison

UW-Madison researchers recently created a new and improved flexible phototransistor that could make many lenses more closely mimic mammals’ eyes.

Engineering professor Zhenqiang “Jack” Ma and research scientist Jung-Hun Seo developed the phototransistors, devices that sense and collect light to convert into an electrical charge, with human eyes in mind, according to a university release. They used new materials to construct the phototransistors, making them more dynamic.

"In this structure—unlike other photodetectors—light absorption in an ultrathin silicon layer can be much more efficient because light is not blocked by any metal layers or other materials," Ma said in the release.

Their study, supported by the U.S. Air Force, produced the fastest and most responsive flexible silicon phototransistor currently available.

The new technology is being patented by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and could improve many products that sense light, like digital cameras, night vision goggles, smoke detectors and satellites.

"This demonstration shows great potential in high-performance and flexible photodetection systems," Ma said in the release. "It shows the capabilities of high-sensitivity photodetection and stable performance under bending conditions, which have never been achieved at the same time."

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