Thinfilm, PARC Win Award for Printed Addressable Memory


Thin Film Electronics ASA and PARC, a Xerox company, won the FlexTech Alliance Innovation Award for the world's first working prototype of a printed, non-volatile memory device addressed with complementary organic circuits, the equivalent of CMOS circuitry. The device consists of Thinfilm's printed memory and PARC's transistors, and when combined with other electronic components, such as temperature sensors, displays, power sources, and antennas, can enable the "Internet of Things", where everything is connected by a smart tag. The two companies first demonstrated the prototype in October of last year.

PARC notes that the market for flexible, printed, and organic large-area electronics is rapidly growing. Currently estimated at over $1B, the global market is expected to increase to a $45B market by 2016. The majority of this market growth will come from new markets enabled or disrupted by the use of flexible substrates, from opportunities enabled by low-cost printing of full-feature electronics, and from electronic devices integrated into novel systems or form factors.

"Addressable memory is a key building block for printed electronics and is an important step in creating a new world of integrated, smart devices. We are pleased to see FlexTech Alliance recognize its importance and innovation in driving the printed electronics market forward," said Ross Bringans, Vice President, PARC Electronic Materials and Devices Laboratory.

Thinfilm devices are thinner than traditional silicon devices and can be produced in form factors as slim as a strand of hair.

PARC's transistor technology using complementary pairs of n-type and p-type transistors to construct the circuits. The addition of the integrated circuits makes the roll-to-roll printed Thinfilm Memory addressable by printable logic.

Using printing to manufacture electronics minimizes the number of process steps, which in turn, dramatically reduces manufacturing costs and lowers the environmental impact compared to traditional semiconductor processes.

Janos Veres, area manager for printed electronics in the electronic materials and devices laboratory at PARC, described printed electronics as a relatively new field, with the "early years" being only 10-12 years ago. The focus is on materials that can be formulated as inks and deposited over large areas. This is quite useful for applications such as flexible displays, which was the original focus of the work, and more recently on smart cards and printed tags. Recent progress has printed electronic transistors inching closer to those produced in polysilicon.

"We never believed that they might one day compete with amorphous silicon," Veres notes. "That's happened and probably 4-5 years ago, we saw that barrier broken. That means we can now take organic materials and achieve the same kind of performance that you see in displays. That progress is carrying on and at the lab level, you can build devices that are now performing better than what amorphous silicon offers. The progress will not stop there. We might see a significant improvement in mobilities at which point devices we build might be competing with polysilicon."

This kind of progress could disrupt conventional microelectronics manufacturing. "A factory might look very different than the conventional microelectronics factory. It might look more like a printing press," he said. ???P.S.

Solid State Technology, Volume 55, Issue 2, March 2012

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