Open Competition 3 - Electronics and Photonics
Roll-to-Roll Processing to Enable the Organic-Electronics Revolution
Revolutionize the electronics industry by developing low-cost roll-to-roll printing technologies, not for newspapers, but for roll-to-roll printing of large area electronic devices, potentially enabling flexible displays, ubiquitous embedded sensors, and high-efficiency lighting products.
Sponsor: General Electric Company, Global ResearchGlobal Research Center
One Research Circle, Bldg. KW, Room C266
Niskayuna, NY 12309
Imagine an electronic device that is as thin and flexible as paper and inexpensive to produce. Organic polymers can make this a reality. In the 1970s, certain types of organic polymers were discovered to have semiconductor or metallic electrical properties. Since the 1990s, substantial effort has been devoted to discovering how to use these polymers to fabricate organic electronic devices. In a four-year joint venture, General Electric and Energy Conversion Devices propose to develop a complete roll-to-roll system for fabricating low-cost, high-performance organic electronic devices, such as organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), which could be used in areas such as lighting, flexible displays, and wearable electronics. The key idea is to form active organic layers on a flexible substrate using a low-cost technique such as ink-jet printing or screening printing. Making certain types of electronic devices would become more like printing newspapers, potentially eliminating expensive batch processing. As envisioned by the joint venture, a machine, perhaps 23 meters long and 4 meters wide, could be built in reconfigurable modules. All fabrication techniques could be optimized for organic-electronics performance and developed to be compatible with roll-to-roll processing. The goal of the project is to build a prototype machine that demonstrates roll-to-roll processing for the production of OLEDs. The University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ) will be subcontracted to evaluate screen printing as a method for depositing active organic layers on OLEDs. Developing deposition techniques that are fully compatible with roll-to-roll processing and integrating all of the necessary fabrication steps into a single system are two areas involving serious risk. This project is beyond the technical abilities of either company alone, and corporate R&D priorities cannot justify the high project technical risks without ATP support. ATP funding ensures long-term commitment to this high-risk, high-reward project and permits developing materials, techniques, and equipment that have broader applications. In 10 years, this technology is expected to generate $7 billion annually in sustainable economic activity. Low-cost organic-electronics technology should benefit many industries and eventually lead to lower costs for many products, such as semiconductors, large signage, sensors, highly energy-efficient OLED elements for general lighting, and organic solar cells for solar-power generation. The technology should help the United States capture the lead in the new organic-electronics market, save energy (efficient OLED lighting and low-cost solar power), and create new jobs.