Carbon nanotube thin film transistor on flexible substrate and its applications as switches in a phase shifter for a flexible phased-array antenna

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Pham, Daniel Thanh Khac

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In this dissertation, a carbon nanotube thin-film transistor is fabricated on a flexible substrate. Combined printing and stamping techniques are used for the fabrication. An ink-jet printing technique is used to form the gate, source, and drain electrodes as well as the dielectric layer. A self aligned carbon nanotube (CNT) thin film is formed by using a new modified dip coat technique before being transferred to the device substrate. This novel modified dip-coat technique utilizes the capillary effect of a liquid solution rising between gaps to coat CNT solution on a large area of the substrate while consuming minimal CNT solution. Several key solutions are addressed to solve the fabrication problems. (1) The source/drain contact with the CNT channel is developed by using droplets of silver ink printed on the source/drain areas prior to applying CNT thin. The wet silver ink droplets allow the silver to "wet" the CNT thin-film area and enable good contact with the source and drain contact after annealing. (2) A passivation layer to protect the device channel is developed by bonding a thin Kapton film on top of the device channel. This thin Kapton film is also used as the media for transferring the aligned CNT thin-film on the device substrate. Using this technique, printing the passivation layer can be avoided, and it prevents the inter-diffusion of the liquid dielectric into the CNT porous thin-film. (3) A simple and cost effective technique to form multilayer metal interconnections on flexible substrate is developed and demonstrated. Contact vias are formed on the second substrate prior bonding on the first substrate. Ink-jet printing is used to fill the silver ink into the via structure. The printed silver ink penetrates through the vias to contact with the contact pads on the on the bottom layer, followed by an anneal process. High drain current of 0.476mA was obtained when V[subscript G]= -3V and source-drain voltage (V[subscript DS]) was -1.5V. A bending test was performed on the CNT TFT showing less than a 10% variation in performance. A bending test was also performed on via structures, which yielded less than a 5% change in resistance. The developed CNT TFT is used to form a switch in a phase shifter for a flexible phased-array antenna (PAA). Four element 1-dimensional and 2-dimensional phased-array antennae are fabricated and characterized. Multilayer metal interconnects were used to make a complete PAA system. For a 2-bit 1x4 PAA system, by controlling the ON/OFF states of the transistors, beam steering of a 5.3GHz signal from 0° to -27° has been demonstrated. The antenna system also shows good stability and tolerance under different bending radii of curvature. A 2-bit 2x2 PAA system was also fabricated and demonstrated. Two dimensional beam steering of a 5.2GHz signal at an angle of [theta]=20.7° and [phi]=45° has been demonstrated. The total efficiency of the 1-dimensional and 2-dimensional PAA systems are 42% and 46%, respectively.



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