Biomedical diagnostics are an essential part of medical treatment and analysis. Sensors that can tell medical professionals what is happening inside a patient’s body without the need for invasive techniques (including surgery) can make diagnosis and treatment much easier. This equipment can also provide the primary care team with continuous, essential information to ensure that a patient’s condition is being managed properly.

So anything that pushes this particular field forward is to be welcomed. Better data means more effective treatment and care management, while easier-to-use sensors that are robust enough to deal with a medical environment, speed up data collection. In a medical context, the faster you can gather and analyse data, the better the quality of treatment for the patient.

So the development of the world’s first image sensor on plastic is a significant step forward. The announcement came in June, when ISORG and Plastic Logic, two of the most innovative and pioneering development companies in organic and printed electronics, combined forces to produce a new type of medical sensor.

The innovative technology combines organic printed photodetectors (OPD), pioneered by ISORG, and a conformal plastic, organic thin-film transistor (OTFT) backplane, developed by Plastic Logic. The result is a flexible sensor with a 4×4 cm active area, 375um pitch (175um pixel size with 200um spacing) and 94 x 95 = 8 930 pixel resolution.

A significant breakthrough

The flexible, transmissive backplane is a significant breakthrough in the manufacture of new large area image sensors. It also shows how flexible transistor technology is capable of being utilised in far more than just plastic displays, and has a role to play in the future generation of sensors used in the medical sector. This could also translate into other areas beyond medicine.

Indro Mukerjee, CEO Plastic Logic said: “I am delighted that Plastic Logic can now demonstrate the far-reaching potential of the underlying technology. Our ability to create flexible, transmissive backplanes has led us not only to co-develop a flexible image sensor, but is also key to flexible OLED displays as well as unbreakable LCDs.”

Other uses

The use of this technology isn’t limited to medical sensors, but could also be utilised in everything from security, smart packaging and fingerprint scanning through to 3D interactive interfaces for consumer electronics.

In the meantime, what it does represent is a clear indication that the use of flexible electronics is a reality today and one that could push the boundaries of diagnostic medicine to a new level of accuracy. Flexible electronics can be applied to a number of other areas, whether we need them to help us recover from illness by providing doctors with the information they need, or form part of our everyday personal gadgets.