NEW YORK, NY-Advance Nanotech, in collaboration with the Center for Advanced Photonics and Electronics (CAPE) at the University of Cambridge, UK, has developed novel composites comprised of organic polymers and nanostructured materials that provide “printable” semiconductors for low-cost inkjet print manufacturing. Advance Nanotech is currently funding 26 portfolio companies in the electronics, biopharma and materials industries; CAPE is funded by Advance Nanotech, Alps Electric Company Limited, Dow Corning Corporation and Marconi Corporation.
“We’re very optimistic about the demand for printed electronics; IDTechEx estimates that printed electronics will grow to $30 billion in 2015 and reach $250 billion by 2025,” said Peter Gammel, chief technology officer at Advance Nanotech. “This simplification in the manufacturing of semiconductors will open up a world of new uses for electronics. We will be able to incorporate intelligent circuits into a variety of objects, from clothing to packaging. Dupont, PlasticLogic, Cambridge Display Technology and e-Ink are just a few of the companies participating in the printable electronics bandwagon.”
According to Gammel, a full range of electronic and optoelectronic components could one day be printable-from transistor circuits to photovoltaic films, from RF ID tags to OLEDs and displays, from logic and memory components to wireless interfaces and RF shields. Electronic and optoelectronic fabrication plants will resemble printing presses and enormous markets could be created where conventional silicon chips cannot go today because they are too costly and rigid. Enabling this revolution will require polymer materials that can be inkjet printed while exhibiting carrier mobility and current transport characteristics that make them suitable for electronic device applications.
“A 1-nm gap between the molecules of an organic polymer is sufficient to prevent effective charge transport. Today even the best polymer materials exhibit a conductivity that is two to three orders of magnitude lower than silicon,” said Paul Beecher, a CAPE researcher working on the project. “Our technology explores an alternative approach to overcoming the poor electrical properties of most organic semiconductors by exploiting the enhanced conductivity brought about by selected nanomaterials. Our most recent results suggest the potential of our technique for addressing this crucial market need.”
More than a year of intense R&D efforts has allowed the AVNA/CAPE team to optimize the chemical treatment of nanostructured materials and effectively disperse them in a range of polymers. Selected nanomaterials have been successfully incorporated in organic polymers, thus turning insulating materials into composites that show promising transistor characteristics. These composites have also proven quite stable, with no tendency to quickly form aggregates in solution, and are therefore suitable for inkjet print manufacturing.