Taxel-Addressable Matrix of Vertical-Nanowire Piezotronic Transistors for Active and Adaptive Tactile Imaging

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Science  24 May 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6135, pp. 952-957
DOI: 10.1126/science.1234855

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A Touchy Subject

The ability to hold a glass being filled with water without dropping it depends on our ability to touch objects and to know the correct pressure to exert. Thus, for robotics or artificial skin design, methods are needed for sensitive pressure detection. Wu et al. (p. 952, published online 25 April) designed a device based on an array of zinc oxide nanowires that generate a small voltage when flexed that could be translated into a pressure signal. The device has a pressure-sensing range of up to 30 kPa, comparable to the 10 to 40 kPa range of a human finger.


Designing, fabricating, and integrating arrays of nanodevices into a functional system are the key to transferring nanoscale science into applicable nanotechnology. We report large-array three-dimensional (3D) circuitry integration of piezotronic transistors based on vertical zinc oxide nanowires as an active taxel-addressable pressure/force sensor matrix for tactile imaging. Using the piezoelectric polarization charges created at a metal-semiconductor interface under strain to gate/modulate the transport process of local charge carriers, we designed independently addressable two-terminal transistor arrays, which convert mechanical stimuli applied to the devices into local electronic controlling signals. The device matrix can achieve shape-adaptive high-resolution tactile imaging and self-powered, multidimensional active sensing. The 3D piezotronic transistor array may have applications in human-electronics interfacing, smart skin, and micro- and nanoelectromechanical systems.

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