You may think your latest television is thin, you may even think that the super-thin screens of OLED TVs are impressive. But is it paper thin? The future of printable electronics promises to push the limits to how thin devices can be, and how few materials may be needed to manufacture them -- and Georgia Institute of Technology has hit a milemarker in that race.
The challenge to manufacturers currently working on printed electronics such as OLED technology is producing them inexpensively and making them function in ambient conditions, according to Georgia Tech. The metals used in printed electronics are extremely sensitive and exposure to oxygen or moisture can ruin them. Focusing on this problem, researchers have come up with a new technique.
Georgia Tech states in a press release, "They spread a very thin layer of a polymer, approximately one to 10 nanometers thick, on the conductor’s surface to create a strong surface dipole. The interaction turns air-stable conductors into efficient, low-work function electrodes. The commercially available polymers can be easily processed from dilute solutions in solvents such as water and methoxyethanol."
The result is cheap and reportedly "environmentally friendly" polymers that will work with existing mass production techniques. "Their use can pave the way for lower cost and more flexible devices,” states Bernard Kippelen, director of Georgia Tech’s Center for Organic Photonics and Electronics (COPE) in the press release. This department focuses specifically on next generation technologies for electronics that will save energy and improve the environment, as well as reduce costs.
Paper-thin printed electronics would indeed reach several of these goals. Considering the new technology would use fewer materials and work with existing manufacturing processes, so manufacturers don't have to re-tool plants or worse, build new plants, it seems that this milestone could be great for devices such as televisions that do less harm to the environment.