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They can realize the concepts of health monitoring wearables, smart healthcare, smart homes and buildings, smart factories and offices, smart infrastructure, environmental sensing, and ultimately the sensors that should appear in all these contexts. It has been identified that there is no single reference or standard for choices of components and the fabrication of electrical interconnects compatible with them for flexible devices.

In addition, the regulations regarding the radio components which are in contact with human skin, in terms of the frequency bands they operate in, have not been discussed. In this work, we will cover these gaps to provide readers with the essential information required to design flexible electronic systems that also meet the regulatory requirements.

We will start with the radio frequency RF regulations that are applied to communications for human connected devices with focus on which RF frequency bands can be used according to RF legislation in various countries, which will be comprehensively expanded on.

Afterward, circuit materials and technologies will be presented, with an emphasis on flexible substrates and electrical interconnects.

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Following on this paper will focus on the design of electronic circuits for wearables with consideration of the restrictions discussed in the previous sections as well as energy management. The reason for such a choice is that the Australian legislation is generally more flexible than that of many other countries, while the U. As such they offer insight into both ends of the RF legislation spectrum.

An extract of the available radio bands described in these pieces of legislation can be found in Table 1. These classes allow devices to operate in these bands, providing their application does not deviate from those specified by the class. In the United States, sections Additionally, it is unclear whether medical devices can be operated under the legislation for ISM bands such as those described in sections The legislation also includes special categories for wireless medical telemetry services Part 95, Subpart H and medical device radio communications MedRadio Services Part 95, Subpart I , though devices of these categories can only be operated by authorized health care providers.

Electronic systems consist of components that must be connected together in circuits and mechanically fixed in place. The PCB is utilized as a support platform and an electrical wiring area for the electronic components. The electronic components can also be placed directly onto flexible substrates.

In this section, such PCBs, flexible substrates, and electrical interconnects will be discussed. This increases the density of components on a board, not only by allowing reduced component size but also by allowing components to be mounted on both sides of a board. Electrical interconnects have been conventionally fabricated by photolithography and etching processes on PCBs.

In such cases, PCBs with length and width in the order of less than several centimeters are placed onto the flexible substrates. However, there are concerns regarding the limitations of the shape, thickness, and softness of the rigid board for creating flexible circuits. As an alternative, extensive research has been reported drawing attention to flexible PCBs, also sometimes known as printed flexible circuits PFCs , which are the patterned arrangement of printed circuitry and components that utilize thin, flexible films, sometimes including a flexible cover layer.

Other flexible substrates demonstrated in the literature include polydimethylsiloxane PDMS , 12 , 15 - 17 Ecoflex, 11 , 18 other types of polyimide, 19 and paper. Further discussion regarding impedance matching can be found in Section 4. Generally, at above MHz a combination of the conductive track and the substrate together act as waveguide component, having significant impedance modulation impact.

Considering the main three frequency bands of MHz, MHz, and 2. Such environments contain large amounts of water, and as such the influence of the liquid environment should also be taken into account.

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Electrical interconnects in PCBs commonly consist of copper. However, copper electrical interconnects are not flexible when they are thinned down and have a tendency to break under extreme or repeated bending. To overcome the limitations of traditional flexible PCBs, much work has been done using a variety of other methods. Copper electrical interconnects can be made to be much more flexible and strain resistant by making them into serpentine shapes, which when combined with flexible substrates like polyimide can be used to make flexible circuits such as those demonstrated by Huang et al.

To overcome the shortcomings of brittle electrical interconnects, much research has been conducted on advancing the concept of printable conductive inks. One method for creating conductive inks is the dispersal of conductive particles in elastomers. Russo et al. Here, the resistivity decreases with increases in the annealing temperature.

The optimum resistance of the graphene ink reaches 0. A surface layer of gallium oxide is instantly formed on its surface when exposed to the ambient environment, 43 which must be managed when creating conductive electrical interconnects. The formation of the surface oxide changes the viscosity, wettability, and surface tension of the liquid metal. The native oxide can be removed by immersion in an acid or base solvent, and can also be removed or formed electrochemically. Microfabrication techniques that concern conventional patterning and placement of metal electrical interconnects involve depositing thin films of solid metals that are processed by photolithography and etching.

However, it is difficult to deposit thin, uniform films of conductive inks. Many new techniques have emerged for the fabrication of flexible electrical interconnects Figure 2 , such as inkjet printing, 46 , 47 microfluidic channel injection, 48 screen printing, 49 microcontact printing, 36 , 50 and direct writing. Inkjet printing is also widely researched, of which the main challenge is that the conversion of the printable conductive ink to a functionalized state i.

Yin et al. In a very recent report, Park et al. This printed thin line of EGaIn can also be reconfigured to form freestanding 3D structures. Park et al. Ultimately, most wearable applications involve placing the device onto a surface which is not flat and is in motion, so flexible substrates and electrical interconnects are necessary. While flexible PCBs made of Kapton substrate and copper electrical interconnects have been commercially available for many years, the copper interconnects reduce the longevity of the system as the number of times they can be repeatedly bent is limited compared to interconnects made of conductive inks or liquid metal.

Additionally, copper electrical interconnects do not offer stretchability.

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In this regard, the use of conductive inks or liquid metals for electrical interconnects on soft substrates would be preferable for making highly flexible and stretchable circuits. These design files can also be used for assembly, allowing pick and place machines to automate assembly of components onto boards. The choice of soft substrate plays an important role in the process of design and fabrication. If the emphasis of one's work is to show that a particular set of materials can be used for making flexible circuits, then research should be conducted with the focus on the suitability of the material and the implementation of the flexible interconnects.

However, if the emphasis is more on specific flexible applications, then a mature commercial product such as Kapton with copper interconnects may be more appropriate for producing a functional flexible prototype to implement novel ideas in the electronic system design or higher levels of the architecture.

Electronic systems derive their functionality from their electronic components. These allow functionality such as reading a sensor and transmitting the data wirelessly to a network or alternatively receiving information from a network to command an actuator to make a change in the physical environment.

In this section, various electronic components that are usually incorporated into flexible electronic circuits will be discussed, excluding sensors and actuators. Discussions of different sensors and actuators, which can be found in specialized journals and books, 58 are very extensive and beyond the scope of this paper. Microcontrollers are the heart of the embedded systems found in flexible electronics. Their functionality can be limited to just data collection or can be extended to signal conditioning and data processing.

Microcontrollers are also important for controlling peripherals such as RF transceivers, sensors, actuators, and power supplies. In this section, we introduce some of the most common microcontrollers in their reported applications and present their capabilities for specific applications of flexible electronic systems Figure 5. This microcontroller was originally produced by Atmel Corporation, which was acquired by Microchip Technology in The ATmegap has a small package size, requires relatively low input power 0. However, the low amount of accessible random access memory RAM makes it challenging to perform complicated tasks with this microcontroller.

This microcontroller has been one of the most popular in skin electronics. For example Tai et al. In this work, the ATmegap microcontroller was employed to control chips for signal conditioning and data transmission over Bluetooth. Although the PCB has been powered by 3. In another example, Nyein et al. Emaminejad et al. This microcontroller was also originally produced by Atmel Corporation. Its power consumption is reasonably low 0. As an example in wearable electronics, Ota et al. The microcontroller's ADC was used for reading the temperature sensor and the data could then be sent to a Bluetooth module for RF transmission.

This microcontroller, from Texas Instruments, also has a small package size Table 3 , requires little power 0. As an example, Guo et al. The same group also used this microcontroller with a pulse wave sensor system. Data were transmitted by a Bluetooth module. Guo et al.

It is not particularly small there is no QFN package or equivalent available , it does not have much memory, and it can consume up to 10 mA at 3. Its maximum clock speed is comparably high 35 MHz , but for the applications discussed in this paper it seems power consumption and chip package size are more important factors.