Newcastle UK, 30 April - 1 May
About 160 people signed up for this conference staged by Nanocentral, which had a small exhibition attached. The electronic part was on the second day. Dr Peter Harrop of IDTechEx described how nano thickness films and nano size particles are increasingly used for printed electronics but for rather prosaic reasons. For example, they use less material and the layers can be bent more severely without fracture. Thin layers sometimes result in better electronic performance. Sometimes small particles mean low temperature sintering is possible, so low cost flexible substrates, notably plastic film, can be used.
In the case of dye sensitised solar cells, the small particles of titanium dioxide can "look" in all directions making the device work at low angles of incidence, low light levels and even polarised light in marked contrast to crystalline bulk silicon, which would be largely unsaleable if it were not for massive government subsidies, particularly in the USA, Germany and Japan. In all cases, we are talking of ten nanometers and above, so quantum effects are absent.
There is some interest in universities concerning quantum dots at truly nanometer scale with their quantum effects promising better semiconductors and conductors but the subject is little understood and some supplies have dried up. He felt that quantum effect products may be commercialised around 2011but admitted that this is pure speculation at this stage.
Dr Eric Mayes of Cambridge Display Technologies described the impressive progress towards flexible Organic Light Emitting Diodes OLEDs using layers of around ten nanometers, again not thin enough to display quantum effects. Sony and Toshiba are selling eleven inch or more television sets this year using OLED displays, but those are on a glass surface. He showed how the least prosperous part of the supply chain is actually making the displays, with early and late stage materials and services being far more lucrative, something reflected in CDT's acquisitions and divestments. CDT sold its ink jet printer business Litrex to the Japanese company Ulvac, which now sells to LCD makers who would not want to buy from a potential competitor such as CDT in OLEDs. We also suspect that the OLED industry is not totally hooked on ink jet as it moves to reel to reel production of flexible polymer OLEDs. CDT has an interesting joint venture with Sumation on materials and Dr Mayes also described the work with Add-Vision, a leader in flexible OLEDs.
Dr Marcus Mooney of Seagate, world number one in hard disc drives with 54,355 employees and about $12 billion in sales, described the breathtakingly clever technology used that really does work at a few nanometers in many cases. Seagate has 34% global market share. The magnetic reading head flies only 10nm above the disc, which has 2nm lubricant, there being 2.5nm head overcoat and 3.5nm media overcoat. This is the most sophisticated transducer in volume production. Despite this, Seagate sees many routes to improved performance in the future.
Learn more by reading "An Introduction to Printed Electronics"