The Market for Organic and Printed Electronics
In 2007, Nanoident opened the world’s first printed semiconductor factory making photodetector arrays that are essentially OLEDs in reverse and some of these products are flexible unlike the more expensive conventional alternatives. Initially their life is limited but the medical and other applications that are targeted do not suffer from this as a problem. Similarly, Add-Vision, with flexible OLEDs, is tapping applications where limited life is not a problem.
However, it is a disappointment that no experts in OLED lighting, signage and displays see long life flexible versions as “just around the corner” any more. That has left the field open to ac electroluminescent displays in the form of light emitting plastic film being applied to buildings, vehicles and so on in large areas and appearing in may other locations such as office lighting and car instrumentation. As a result, about ten manufacturers of these printed inorganic products are seeing rapid increase in sales. In turn that has fostered a new interest from materials suppliers and new phosphors with better colour, lifetime and so on are being developed using both inorganic and organic routes.
Dramatic cost reduction - new markets
Using the new technologies, such as printed electrophoretic displays, Massachusetts Institute of Technology is working on the $100 laptop for the third world and, recently, the Vellore Institute of Technology in India has announced that it believes that the $47 laptop is possible. At those prices, they will bring products to countries where they do not exist and combat poverty.
New life for PEDOT
The “staple food” of the organic electronics business remains the PEDOT semiconductor/ conductor and it is now being used for surprising reasons. In 2006, Menippos sold 700,000 interactive football tokens that employed a 16 bit screen printed pattern PEDOT. They did not use silver ink because silver can be a biocide and children may chew these paper products. They also wanted the RFID to function even after crushing and folding. Arjo Wiggins announced interactive paper with a hidden PEDOT conductive pattern and here they chose PEDOT because its blue colour was easier to obscure than a metal pattern. Nevertheless, the electrodes, antennas and interconnects in most so-called organic electronic and electrical products remain metallic because the organic industry still fails to match the cost/ conductivity figures of printed inks, particularly silver.