LONDON BASF Future Business is working with partners to develop printed electronics technology based on organic semiconductors that can be used in a broad variety of everyday applications.
BASF (Ludwigshafen, Germany) is cooperating on projects with Lucent Technologies Bell Labs (Murray Hill, N.J.) and Printed systems (Chemnitz, Germany), to create this technology, which is cheaper and less complex than traditional silicon-based processes used to manufacture integrated circuits.
A recently completed project between all three companies successfully resulted in the production of the first fully printed, low cost mass-produceable, ring oscillator. A ring oscillator is an IC made up of transistors that together produce defined periodical electrical signals, e.g. blinking.
In more complex circuits such ring oscillators are often used as clock generators. With this prototype the BASF team was able to confirm that its IC was fully functional providing a major advance on the way to the printing of low cost, highly flexible integrated circuitry, using established offset and gravure-based printing processes.
BASF provided expertise in the field of polymers and formulating inks to the project, while Bell Labs supplied know-how in developing organic semiconductors as well as its research into the materials, processes, and technologies appropriate for printing and testing circuitry. Printing expertise was provided by Printed Systems.
A second project, which involves only BASF and Printed Systems, will now look at new markets and applications in which the printed electronics technology can be used. Possible applications include RFID tags, flexible displays such as e-paper or lighting devices, electronic labels and large-area sensors.
Dr. Peter Eckerle, project manager at BASF Future Business, said, “We estimate that markets for printed electronics technology may reach a potential of more than 20billionn Euros in the next 7 to 10 years, with more to come. Our goal now is to tailor and optimize our process to specific applications, and to develop marketable products together with partners within the next three years.”
Printed Systems is a private start-up company, established in 2003 and one of its owners is Prof. Dr. Arved C. Hübler, who is also director of the Institute for Print and Media Technology at Chemnitz University of Technology.