Nano firm touts printable semiconductors

June 14, 2006 – Researchers at Advance Nanotech Inc. and the Center for Advanced Photonics and Electronics (CAPE) at the U. of Cambridge, UK, say they have developed novel composites made from organic polymers and nanostructured materials that provide “printable” semiconductors for low-cost inkjet print manufacturing.

Future electronic and optoelectronic fabrication techniques will require polymer materials that can be inkjet printed while exhibiting suitable carrier mobility and current transport characteristics. Today’s best-available polymer materials have conductivity several orders of magnitude lower than silicon, noted Paul Beecher, a CAPE researcher working on the project. “A one nanometer gap between the molecules of an organic polymer is sufficient to prevent effective charge transport,” he said. “Our technology explores an alternative approach to overcoming the poor electrical properties of most organic semiconductors by exploiting the enhanced conductivity brought about by selected nanomaterials.”

After a year of work, the scientists say they have optimized the chemical treatment of nanostructured materials and effectively disperse them in a range of polymers, and successfully incorporated selected nanomaterials into organic polymers. The result — insulating materials turned into composites — show promising transistor characteristics, and have proven “quite stable,” with no tendency to quickly form aggregates in solution, and thus suitable for inkjet print manufacturing.

Peter Gammel, CTO at Advance Nanotech, pointed to estimates from IDTechEx of a potential $30 billion market for printed electronics by 2015, and surging to $250 billion by 2025. Possible applications include printable transistors, logic and memory components, photovoltaic films, RFID tags, and OLEDs and displays, the company said.

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