Open Competition - Electronics/Computer Hardware/Communications (October 2000)
Printed Organic ASICs: A Disruptive Technology
Develop novel organic electronic materials and processing technologies for application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) to enable the fabrication of large-area electronic devices, such as displays, using relatively inexpensive printing technologies in lieu of semiconductor lithography.
Sponsor: Motorola, Inc.1301 East Algonquin Road
Schaumburg, IL 60196
Because of size and cost issues, conventional semiconductor materials and integrated circuits are not well suited to large-area electronic devices such as displays and other interfaces between people and machines. A solution could be application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) made of organic materials, but only if significant technical hurdles can be overcome. Motorola, teaming with Dow Chemical Co. (Midland, Mich.), and Xerox, Inc. (Palo Alto, Calif.), plans to develop organic semiconductor materials and associated design and manufacturing technologies for use in the fabrication of printed ASICs, to enable the production of inexpensive large-area devices. In the four-year project, the research team intends to develop novel polymeric semiconductors with acceptable electronic and physical properties, rapid and fine-featured large-area printing techniques to deposit the material, and device packaging that provides for robust and reliable use. The devices will be thin-film transistors, which are similar to light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Organic materials are used because traditional semiconductor materials like silicon cannot be deposited with printing techniques, which are less costly than conventional lithography. A variety of organic and hybrid semiconductor materials will be evaluated, along with both mature and experimental printing methods. Polymers are targeted because of attractive features such as low processing cost, but they are difficult to purify, and the understanding of polymeric semiconductors and device operation is currently limited. In addition to developing a printable polymer with the requisite conductivity and purity, the researchers must meet high-volume cost targets of $20 to $500 per square meter. Once the technology is developed, prototype systems, such as an active matrix liquid crystal display (AMLCD), will be fabricated. ATP support is needed because of the high technical risk in this project; it made the joint venture possible and will accelerate development of this technology by at least three years. If successfully developed and commercialized, the new technology will greatly reduce the costs of superior products such as AMLCDs and enable the marketing of many new systems such as electric paper (digital document display), smart cards, and automotive electronics. These new and improved products could be worth billions of dollars in annual revenues and enable U.S. firms to maintain a technological edge over foreign competitors in electronics.