BASF Future Business develops new printed electronics technology with partners
* Goal: marketable products within the next three years
BASF Future Business GmbH, Ludwigshafen, is jointly developing leading edge printed electronics technology based on organic semiconductors that can be used in a broad variety of everyday applications. BASF entered into two projects with Lucent Technologies Bell Labs (NYSE:LU) and printed systems GmbH, Chemnitz, Germany, to create this technology, which is cheaper and less complex than traditional silicon-based processes used to manufacture integrated circuits.
The recently completed project between all three companies successfully resulted in the production of the first fully printed, low cost mass-produceable, ring oscillator. A ring oscillator is an integrated circuit made up of transistors that together produce defined periodical electrical signals, e.g. blinking. In more complex circuits such ring oscillators are often used as clock generators. With this prototype the BASF team was able to confirm that its integrated circuit was fully functional. This represents an industry first and major advancement on the way to the printing of low cost, highly flexible integrated circuitry, using established offset and gravure-based printing processes.
BASF lent its expertise in the field of polymers and formulating inks to the project, while Bell Labs supplied its know-how in developing organic semiconductors as well as its research into the materials, processes, and technologies appropriate for printing and testing circuitry. Printing expertise was provided by printed systems. “The production of the ring oscillator was a significant breakthrough as it showed that the manufacturing process does work,” said Dr. Florian Dötz, research scientist at BASF. “We can now move forward to the next stage.”
The second project, which involves only BASF and printed systems, will now look to tap into new markets and applications in which the printed electronics technology can be used. Examples of possible applications are RFID (radio frequency identification) tags, flexible displays (e.g. e-paper) or lighting devices, electronic labels and large-area sensors.
“We estimate that markets for printed electronics technology may reach a potential of more than €20bn in the next 7 to 10 years, with more to come,” said Dr. Peter Eckerle, project manager at BASF Future Business. “This reflects the wide range of new applications attainable with this innovative and cost-effective technology. Our goal now is to tailor and optimize our process to specific applications, and to develop marketable products together with partners within the next three years.”
BASF Future Business
BASF Future Business GmbH, a 100 percent subsidiary of BASF Aktiengesellschaft, was founded in April 2001. It aims to open up business areas with above-average growth rates that lie outside BASF’s current activities. The company focuses on chemistry-based new materials, technologies and system solutions. BASF Future Business GmbH commissions research from BASF’s R&D units on the one hand, and, on the other hand, cooperates with startup companies, industrial partners, universities and potential customers. Further tools include acquisition of a direct stake, joint ventures, with partner companies or provision of venture capital via the subsidiary BASF Venture Capital GmbH.
Bell Labs and Lucent Technologies
Bell Labs is the leading source of new communications technologies and has been for eighty years. It has generated more than 31,000 patents since 1925 and has played a pivotal role in inventing or perfecting key communications technologies, including transistors, digital networking and signal processing, lasers and fiber-optic communications systems, communications satellites, cellular telephony, electronic switching of calls, touch-tone dialing, and modems. Bell Labs scientists have received six Nobel Prizes in Physics, nine U.S. National Medals of Science and eight U.S. National Medals of Technology. For more information about Bell Labs, visit its Web site at www.bell-labs.com.
Lucent Technologies designs and delivers the systems, services and software that drive next-generation communications networks. Backed by Bell Labs research and development, Lucent uses its strengths in mobility, optical, software, data and voice networking technologies, as well as services, to create new revenue-generating opportunities for its customers, while enabling them to quickly deploy and better manage their networks. Lucent’s customer base includes communications service providers, governments and enterprises worldwide. For more information on Lucent Technologies, which has headquarters in Murray Hill, N.J., USA, visit www.lucent.com.
printed systems GmbH is a private start-up company, established in 2003 in Chemnitz, Germany. One of its owners is Prof. Dr. Arved C. Hübler, who is also director of the Institute for Print and Media Technology at Chemnitz University of Technology. In a close relationship to the Institute, printed systems develops printing technologies for the production of electronics. printed systems’ aim is to create new products and applications for which they expect huge mass markets. Therefore, the company’s focus is on mass printing technologies, which offer a new dimension of cost-efficient electronic applications in printed matter.
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