A photomicrograph of three 50-micron diameter rolled transformers. (Wen Huang)

The future of electronic devices lies partly within the “internet of things” – the network of devices, vehicles and appliances embedded within electronics to enable connectivity and data exchange. University of Illinois engineers are helping realize this future by minimizing the size of one notoriously large element of integrated circuits used for wireless communication – the transformer.

Three-dimensional rolled-up radio frequency transformers are made with carefully patterned metal wires deposited onto stretched 2D thin films. Once the tension is released, the 2D films self-roll into tiny tubes, allowing the primary and secondary wires to coil and nest perfectly inside each other into a much smaller area for optimum magnetic induction and coupling.