The integration of electronics with materials opens up a world of possibilities, the surface of which is just being scratched. Professor Arokia Nathan has joined the University to take up a new Chair in Engineering, where he will be exploring the application of research that allows us to glimpse a world rivalling our wildest dreams of the future.
We believe this approach to circuitry in substrates will lead to the creation of smart substances, and once you start thinking about the possible applications, it’s hard to stop."
The potential applications for nanophotonics and nanoelectronics are truly startling, suggesting the brink of a revolution in human-machine interfaces that could turn science fiction into a reality. From interactive paper to clothing that generates energy and light-weight material with X-ray capabilities, weaving electronics into the building blocks of everyday materials will undoubtedly impact how we live in the future.
The Electrical Division in the Department of Engineering is leading the charge for Cambridge, both in terms of fundamental research and application within industry. While research is of course essential, of almost equal importance in fields like nanoelectronics is showing real world application, demonstrating the potential of technology to industry through prototyping, and encouraging investment from around the world.
To aid this approach, the University has recently recruited Professor Arokia Nathan from University College London (UCL) to a new Chair of Photonic Systems and Displays. Nathan, a world leader in the development of display technology, will work between the three primary groups in the Electrical Engineering Division (electronic materials, photonics and energy), acting as a conduit and catalyst for ideas and research.
"For me this is a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with researchers at the top of their game, working on this idea of systems that can integrate functionality such as and energy into materials to enhance everyday life," he explained. One of his primary visions for Cambridge is the foundation of a new Design Centre to demonstrate the potential of this technology to industry through prototyping and to encourage investment from around the world.
Initially, Professor Nathan and colleagues within the Division will be developing electronic systems that can be seamlessly layered on to a material or substrate, such as plastic or polyester, with embedded transistors and sensors for transmitting and receiving information. While at UCL, Nathan and a team of collaborators from CENIMAT/FCTUNL, Portugal demonstrated the first inverter and other circuit building blocks on a piece of paper, representing the first step towards animated images and videos on magazine pages.