Paper-based Electronics that Perform Better than Silicon
A Portuguese university has developed Paper-e®, an emergent technology for applying field effect transistors on and with paper. The technology is unique in that the paper is not only the structural support, but also the dielectric element, an active and integral part of the function of the transistor. It has been developed for applying field effect transistors (FET) ON and WITH paper as well as non-volatile float gating memory paper transistors, where the active materials deposited on both sides of the paper sheet are at the most one hundred nanometres thick. The technology makes use of conventional cellulose fibres (paper) from renewable resources.
The technology roadmap developed by the inventors show no other similar technologies, proving the high disruptiveness degree of Paper-e®. The New University of Lisbon has two patent applications pending for this technology.
Advantages of the technology include the opportunity for radical innovations in manufacturing processes and final products including the creation of innovative technologies and strategic resources such as flexible and conformable substrates, smart packaging and smart signage and printed electronics. The creation of eco-efficient technology is another advantage. The technology is environmentally friendly, with reduced energy and cost: simplifying the manufacturing process compared to requirements for silicon both in terms of capital expenses, temperatures and the use of harmful chemicals. It provides motivation to pursue new technologies that may expand the applications of printing technologies. Paper-e® allows the creation of Smart Media Products that never existed before that can be embedded into the environment. The technology is also sustainable, with eco-efficient material processing, optimised recycling ability and biodegradability.
Paper-e® has a switching speed two orders of magnitude larger than the available amorphous silicon thin film transistor (TFT) or organic based TFT. Also by proper functionalisation of the paper, electrochromic transistors can also be processed. The organisation claims the paper transistor operates much better than amorphous silicon transistors and it can be made at room temperatures (as opposed to the extreme temperatures required for silicon transistors) and since paper is a lighter and a lower-cost substrate than silicon, Paper-e® opens the way for inexpensive, or even disposable and biodegradable paper displays, smart labels, RFID technology, ID cards, logic circuits, disposable non volatile memory circuits, amongst other technologies. It should enable more ubiquitous technology integration in future products.
Paper-e can be used in existing applications, but will also create new markets which the current microelectronic industry (silicon based) does not address. The strategy of commercialisation fits into the similar and overlapping fields of Large-Area-Electronics, Flexible-Electronics, and Printed-Electronics. Paper-e can also be used for making transistor circuits including CMOS, displays, sensors (including different types of bio-sensors for DNA/RNA detection, blood pH detection and others), float gating memories (flash memories), shift registers, solid state batteries and much more for markets like: consumer goods, healthcare, toys and advertising. However, this technology is currently at a very early stage of commercial development.
Innovative UK firms capable of imbedding this new technology in innovative products are sought by the university as potential partners. Ideally companies would operate in the areas of RFID systems, e-book readers and displays, photovoltaic's and smart packaging but any other field of application is also eligible for exclusive licensing.
UK companies would be able to take the Paper-e® technology to the market via their own innovative products on a global scale. The technology has several applications in different markets and potential partners using this technology would also benefit from all the know-how and intellectual capital of the research team at the university.
For more information about this technology, or to get in touch with the Portuguese university, please contact Ron Oren on r.oren@LTNetwork.org or 0870 730 8662.
Article by Dr Harry Zervos