Stretchable Thin Film Mechanical-Strain-Gated Switches and Logic Gate Functions Based on a Soft Tunneling Barrier
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Mechanical-strain-gated switches are cornerstone components of material-embedded circuits that perform logic operations without using conventional electronics. This technology requires a single material system to exhibit three distinct functionalities: strain-invariant conductivity and an increase or decrease of conductivity upon mechanical deformation. Herein, mechanical-strain-gated electric switches based on a thin-film architecture that features an insulator-to-conductor transition when mechanically stretched are demonstrated. The conductivity changes by nine orders of magnitude over a wide range of tunable working strains (as high as 130%). The approach relies on a nanometer-scale sandwiched bilayer Au thin film with an ultrathin poly(dimethylsiloxane) elastomeric barrier layer; applied strain alters the electron tunneling currents through the barrier. Mechanical-force-controlled electric logic circuits are achieved by realizing strain-controlled basic (AND and OR) and universal (NAND and NOR) logic gates in a single system. The proposed material system can be used to fabricate material-embedded logics of arbitrary complexity for a wide range of applications including soft robotics, wearable/implantable electronics, human-machine interfaces, and Internet of Things.