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A research institute at a German university has adapted conventional mass printing processes to printed electronics. The expertise ranges from mass printed single electronic components to fully integrated circuits on flexible substrates and the development of functional inks/surfaces. Inexpensive production of a variety of electronic and sensor devices is offered. The partnerships considered are based on research cooperation agreement and/or technical cooperation agreement.
The German institute has unique machinery of different printing presses for R2R (roll-to-roll) and screen-printing. Methods like offset, gravure and flexographic printing allow the production of electronic structures and functional thin films with extremely high throughput. An in-house developed combined gravure and flexographic printing technique enables the creation of structures with a lateral resolution down to 10 µm, a limit so far not reached with high throughput R2R printing processes.
In the following are some examples from current work:
• Organic thin film transistors
The institute has over a decade experience in developing and producing organic thin film transistors by mass printing on flexible substrates, including lateral and vertical (3D) stacking.
• Photovoltaic solar cells
Low-cost large area flexible photovoltaic cells are printed on paper (other flexible substrates are possible) by a combination of gravure and flexography printing techniques.
• Chipless RFID tags
A 3-bit chipless RFID tag has been developed and fabricated which enable fast and inexpensive mass production of tags. The maximum reading distance is about 1 m with a transmission power of 3 dBm.
R2R printing enables the large scale production of paper or plastic based supercapacitors at low costs using green materials and at a high packing density.
• Printed loudspeaker
Large area piezoelectric thin organic layers (thickness ca. 15 µm) sandwiched between thin layers of conducting organic polymers (thickness between 0.14 and 0.44 µm) are fully mass printed on paper. This device serves as a highly flexible and very thin low-cost acoustic system based on cheap and eco-friendly paper substrates. The acoustic properties of the loudspeakers have been characterized. As such, they offer an enormous potential for the advertising segment, as sound wallpapers or in purely technical applications, e.g., distance sensors, utilizing the activity of the papers in the ultrasound range.
• Functional layers –electrochemical sensor application conducting layers (metal, carbon, organic polymers) printed on flexible substrates serve as electrodes in electroanalytical experiments. The mass printed electrodes can be modified by functional films, e.g. based on CNT, graphene, nano particles, or ion selective membranes for specific and selective detection of analytes.
The institute is looking for partners from research and industry for a research cooperation and/or technical cooperation agreement.
A co-operation can be in one of the above mentioned areas, but also new challenges for mass-printed devices are welcome. The cooperation could involve
• Development/testing of new and improved material for printing.
• Realisation of new concepts for flexible and wearable devices
• Device modelling and circuit design and simulation for printed (organic) electronics, simulation of printing processes
• Transfer of laboratory proven concepts to cost-effective fabrication by mass-printing.
Attractive attributes of printed electronics are the mechanical flexible form-factor, low-costs in material and production, green, on-demand printing, scalability, and low power operation. These attributes make printed electronics largely complementary to silicon-based electronics.
By adapting and modifying conventional mass printing technology, the institute has developed and fabricated a variety of electronic devices and functional layers. Examples are given below.
No vacuum or high temperatures are necessary for printing which makes it a cost-effective and environmental friendly process. The choice of substrates ranges from paper over plastics to fabrics.
Layer on layer patterning and printing allows building up complex devices in a time saving additive process, compared to often time consuming and expensive subtractive methods like chemical etching and laser ablation. Furthermore, as a mostly continuous process, printing allows for a high throughput.
Prototype available for demonstration
Partner from research institutions and industry working in the fields of
• Material science (chemistry and physics): Organic semi-conductors and conductors, solid electrolytes, organic piezoelectric polymers.
• Electronics: Circuit design, simulation and modelling
• Analytical chemistry: Electroanalytical chemistry, Sensor development
are sought for.
The partner’s function would be either to assist to improve existing devices and concepts or to develop and realise new concepts with the help of technical facilities and expertise in printed electronics and printed functional layers present at the institute. Especially,
• Development and optimising of new printable organic semi-conductor material (high charge carrier mobility, long-term stability, alignment techniques).
• Development of solid electrolytes suitable for mass printed supercapacitors.
• Device modelling and circuit design and simulation for printed (organic) electronics
• Increasing the long-term stability and efficiency of paper based large-area organic solar cells.
• Applications of flexible, inexpensive and mass printed functional layers/electrodes for the design of electrochemical sensors.
The institute in its current form was established in 1996. A predecessor dates back to 1953.