Nanoident to target biometrics market with photonic technology

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June 26, 2006 – Austria-based Nanoident Technologies AG is hoping its ultra-thin, organic semiconductor-based nanolayers can help the company slide into market faster than previous nanotechnologies with applications in displays, sensors and biometrics.

The company announced a new division on Monday that is focused on the biometrics field. Nanoident intends to show off its photonics platform — aimed at easing the creation of commercial organic photonic devices — in a new family of biometric sensors, said Nanoident CEO Klaus Schroeter.

Using organic semiconductor alternatives to silicon — specifically, conjugated polymers with proprietary additives — Nanoident prints electronic circuits on surfaces using industrial inkjet printers, a significantly cheaper alternative to the billion-dollar semiconductor fabs typically required for such work, said Craig Cruickshank, a principal analyst at Cintelliq, a consultancy that tracks the sector.

Cruickshank said that by building on previous work, which includes Nanoident’s roots in organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) and industrial inkjet printing, Nanoident may be able to cut the technology’s time to market

“There’s already a proven use of the materials and process,” he said. “They’re building on the technology that’s already available. It’s not some new material, system or deposition.”

At the same time, Nanoident’s combination of OLED and sensor technologies is novel, according to Cruickshank.

“Nobody else has done it,” he said. “They’ve combined them and come up with a production system for it.” He cited Nanoident’s background in the field and its focus on production as among the qualities that would help it come through on its promise to deliver devices by the end of the year.

“Market adoption is always the biggest challenge, but these are all good areas to use light emissions and touch,” he said, stressing that Nanoident’s organic materials have a large-area advantage over silicon, which is limited by wafer size and expense.

Nanoident prints organic semiconductor layers 20 to 30 nanometers thick. Although the materials may be expensive, there is so little used that the printing technique saves money, according to Schroeter.

He said there is interest in the technology from cell phone companies. They do not have space for traditional biometric sensors but are interested in technology from Nanoident that could read a user’s fingerprint for identification.

Schroeter said products from Nanoident’s new Biometrics GmbH will range from simple yet secure fingerprint sensors to more sophisticated solutions that combine different biometric measurements made possible by Nanoident’s fusion of OLED displays and sensors.

In addition to reading a fingerprint, the device could also defend against attempts to circumvent it by identifying other biometric traits. For example, a sensor could identify a user by the inner dermal tissue structure of their finger, Schroeter said.

The company’s approach allows the creation of an entire biometric system on a smart card, Schroeter said. “The big thing is, we can … get rid of the large biometric databases used by governments and large banks,” he said. “They don’t really want to store biometric user data. The best way to store the biometric data is directly in the smart card.”

Nanoident is also working on life sciences applications, such as medical diagnostics, and in the industrial sector, which will soon be the basis of another Nanoident announcement around its photonics platform, Schroeter said.

Schroeter said the 30-employee company would grow rapidly in the next few years as it competes in a sensing market expected to grow to more than $250 billion by 2025, according to IDTechEx, a market research firm. He said Nanoident would add another 20 employees with the new biometric division. The division will be led by Alain Jutant, whos prior experience in biometrics and image sensors includes positions at ATMEL and Thomson-CSF Semiconductors.

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