BASF Future Business GmbH, Ludwigshafen, is jointly developing leading edge printed electronics technology based on organic semiconductors that can be used in a broad variety of everyday applications. BASF entered into two projects with Lucent Technologies Bell Labs and printed systems GmbH, Chemnitz, Germany, to create this technology, which is cheaper and less complex than traditional silicon-based processes used to manufacture integrated circuits.
The 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 integrated circuit 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 integrated circuit was fully functional. This represents an industry first and major advancement on the way to the printing of low cost, highly flexible integrated circuitry, using established offset and gravure-based printing processes.
BASF lent its expertise in the field of polymers and formulating inks to the project, while Bell Labs supplied its 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. "The production of the ring oscillator was a significant breakthrough as it showed that the manufacturing process does work," said Dr. Florian Dötz, research scientist at BASF. "We can now move forward to the next stage."
The second project, which involves only BASF and printed systems, will now look to tap into new markets and applications in which the printed electronics technology can be used. Examples of possible applications are RFID (radio frequency identification) tags, flexible displays (e.g. e-paper) or lighting devices, electronic labels and large-area sensors.
"We estimate that markets for printed electronics technology may reach a potential of more than €20bn in the next 7 to 10 years, with more to come," said Dr. Peter Eckerle, project manager at BASF Future Business. "This reflects the wide range of new applications attainable with this innovative and cost-effective technology. 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."
Learn more - hear BASF present on their work at Printed Electronics USA 2005 in Naples, Florida on Dec 7-8. www.printelec.com .