May 23, 2012 — Researchers from A*STAR’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) in Singapore and their commercial partners developed a plastic that reflects 0.09-0.20% of the visible light hitting its surface, thanks to a nanostructuring that mimics the folds in a moth’s eye.
Existing anti-reflective and anti-glare plastics in the market typically have reported reflectivity of around 1% of visible light. The new plastic could improve TV displays, solar cells, and other surfaces.
The plastic maintains low reflectivity (<0.7%) at angles up to 45°, enabling wider viewing angles with less glare on televisions, and larger light-absorption areas on organic solar cells.
|Figure. Scanning electron microscope (SEM) image showing the engineered anti-reflective nanostructures (left) that mimic structures found in a moth’s eye (moth close-up right, ©iStockphoto.com/Roman Nikolenko).|
IMRE developed a nanoimprint process to fabricate the plastic. Nanoimprinting forms the plastic by engineering its physical aspects rather than using chemicals to change material properties. The process evolved from a lithography technology for the semiconductor industry and now suits a range of applications. This plastic is engineered into complex hierarchical “moth-eye” anti-reflective structures by placing nanoscale structures on top of other microstructures.
Now, the researchers are “developing complementary research that allows the technology to be easily ramped-up to an industrial scale,” said Dr Low Hong Yee, IMRE senior scientist leading the research.
Several companies are in the process of licensing the anti-reflective nanostructure technology from Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd, the technology transfer arm of A*STAR. This plastic material is the first successful result of the IMRE-led Industrial Consortium On Nanoimprint (ICON), which partners local and overseas companies to promote the manufacturing of nanoimprint technology. “The…consortium work will benefit our company’s expansion into new markets such as in the touchscreen panel and solar business sectors," said Wilson Kim Woo Yong, director, global marketing from Young Chang Chemical Co. Ltd. ICON promotes versatile, industry-ready nanoimprinting technology that can bring products to the market through sustainable manufacturing. Members of ICON work on joint projects to develop new products and applications that can potentially have huge savings in R&D. ICON began working on anti-reflective materials in August 2010.
The Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) is a research institute of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore. The Institute has capabilities in materials analysis & characterization, design & growth, patterning & fabrication, and synthesis & integration for organic solar cells, photovoltaics, printed electronics, catalysis, bio-mimetics, microfluidics, quantum dots, heterostructures, sustainable materials, atom technology, and other research. For more information about IMRE, visit www.imre.a-star.edu.sg. For more information about A*STAR, please visit www.a-star.edu.sg.