The growing demand for next-generation electronics providing a link between living matter and the digital world has favored the growth of highly adaptable electronic functional elements capable of recognizing environmental changes by responding to electrical, magnetic, optical and thermal stimuli.
One of the prominent development directions is the field of electronic skins (e-skins): large area stretchable networks of electronic sensors integrated with multiple functionalities that can provide augmented performance with respect to its organic counterpart. E-skins are wearable and can be endowed with functionalities not present in human skin, such as magnetic sensitivity. Shapeable electronics can be also operated in vivo as advanced surgical tools.
The exceptional mechanical properties of these electronic nanomembranes enable further modifications of their structures to yield three-dimensional shapes at the nanoscale and allow configurations that would be impossible to achieve with bulk materials. Such extension in the three-dimensional space provides the means to modify conventional or to launch entirely novel functionalities by tailoring geometric curvature and the three-dimensional shape.
The exciting developments in the discovery and exploitation of these novel effects induced by curvature at the nanoscale allow ultimately to define a completely new field – curved nanoelectronics – as reported in a paper published in the prestigious journal Nature Electronics (Gentile, P. et al., Electronic materials with nanoscale curved geometries, Nat Electron (2022)) by an international research group including Paola Gentile and Mario Cuoco of the SPIN-CNR Institute - Salerno, Carmine Ortix of the Physics Department of the University of Salerno, and researchers from the HZDR of Dresden (Germany), of the University of Manchester (UK) and of the Lanzhou University (China).
The article examines in detail the origin of curvature effects at the nanoscale and illustrates their potential applications in innovative electronic, spintronic and superconducting devices. In superconductors, for instance, nanoscale curvature can shape the Cooper pairs structure and lead to novel coherent effects for quantum technologies. The paper also describes the methods needed to synthesize and characterize curvilinear nanostructures and highlights key areas for the future developments of curved nanoelectronics.