Semprius, Inc., a semiconductor technology company developing novel transfer printing technology for the manufacture of advanced semiconductor devices, has received a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I Grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
The project will demonstrate printing of fully formed thin-film transistors on plastic substrates for use as high-performance backplanes in flexible displays. No company has developed a cost-effective process for forming high-performance thin-film electronic devices on plastic substrates. This missing capability has prevented the development of flexible displays as well as a large number of other flexible electronic innovations.
With Semprius' approach, high-performance electronics are first formed on a host semiconductor wafer using conventional wafer processing techniques. Specific wet etching chemistries are used for undercutting the devices in such a way that they become removable in an ultra-thin and flexible format from the host wafer. In the last step of the process, the devices are transfer printed onto a plastic sheet using a silicone rubber transfer stamp.
The key feature of this approach is that the demanding process steps necessary to fabricate high-performance electronic systems are performed on the host substrate and not on the final plastic substrate. As a result, the inherent mechanical or chemical instabilities of the final receiving plastic substrate do not limit the choice of semiconductor manufacturing processes for fabricating the devices.
The Phase I research will focus on developing the processes and materials necessary to meet the demanding registration and yield requirements of large area array printing necessary for display manufacturing. In addition, Semprius will identify, analyze and resolve key issues yielding circuit defects.
The ability to manufacture flexible display backplanes to the demanding standards of the display industry will enable a broad opportunity in flexible electronics far beyond displays, including configurable X-ray sensors, RFID tags, and wearable electronics and sensors. In displays, backplanes using Semprius' technology could potentially be utilized by all Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) manufacturers, Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) display manufacturers and other specialty display manufacturers.