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Flexible electronics for space applications

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 March 2011

Erik Brandon
Affiliation:
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA 91109
William West
Affiliation:
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA 91109
Lisong Zhou
Affiliation:
Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA 16802
Tom Jackson
Affiliation:
Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA 16802
Greg Theriot
Affiliation:
Air Force Research Laboratory, Kirtland Air Force Base Albuquerque, New Mexico 87117
Rod A.B. Devine
Affiliation:
Air Force Research Laboratory, Kirtland Air Force Base Albuquerque, New Mexico 87117
David Binkley
Affiliation:
University of North Carolina, Charlotte Charlotte, NC 28223
Nikhil Verma
Affiliation:
University of North Carolina, Charlotte Charlotte, NC 28223
Robert Crawford
Affiliation:
University of North Carolina, Charlotte Charlotte, NC 28223
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Abstract

NASA is currently developing a host of deployable structures for the exploration of space. These include balloons, solar sails, space-borne telescopes and membrane-based synthetic aperture radar. Each of these applications is driven by the need for a thin, low mass, large area structure (e.g., polymer-based) which could not be implemented using conventional engineering materials such as metals and alloys. In each case, there is also the need to integrate sensing and control electronics within the structure. However, conventional silicon-based electronics are difficult to integrate with such large, thin structures, due to a variety of concerns including mass, reliability and manufacturing issues. Flexible electronics, particularly thin film transistors (TFTs), are a potentially key enabling technology that may allow the integration of a wide range of sensors and actuators into these types of structures. There are numerous challenges, however, regarding the survivability of such devices during stowage and deployment of the structure, as well as during operation in the harsh environments of space. We have fabricated TFTs on polyimide substrates, and are investigating the durability of these devices with respect to relevant space environments. We are also developing flexible sensor technologies for the integration of distributed sensor networks on large area structures.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Materials Research Society 2004

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