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The worldwide first mass printed integrated electronics circuit has been produced in Chemnitz

28.09.2005 - (idw) Technische Universität Chemnitz

A further breakthrough in polymer electronics
The worldwide first mass printed integrated electronics circuit has been produced in Chemnitz - pilot applications are presented on the Plastics Electronics trade fair in Frankfurt/Main on the 4th and 5th of October 2005

For years researchers throughout the world have been looking for low-cost production methods for simple, mostly short-lived and required in great quantities electronic components. These include material tags, luggage labels or packaging equipped with mini chips. The Institute for Print and Media Technology at Chemnitz University of Technology has now produced the worldwide first electronic circuit with mass printing technology.

The project has been coordinated by BASF Future Business GmbH and included researchers from BASF AG in Ludwigshafen, Lucent Technologies Bell Labs in Murray Hill (USA), printed systems GmbH in Chemnitz as well as the Institute for Print and Media Technology at Chemnitz University of Technology. Together they solved complex material and process related problems to make electronics printable.

The circuit is a so-called ring oscillator consisting of 14 transistors. Ring oscillators are basic components for more complex circuits and generate clock signals. BASF and Bell Labs contributed their experiences in the used materials as well as the materials physical study. Besides own material developments, also commercially available basic materials were used which had to be adjusted and modified by the project partners. The circuits were designed, printed and researched by printed systems GmbH and the Institute for Print and Media Technology. The researchers resorted to mass printing technologies such as offset, gravure and flexographic printing.

The circuits were printed at a printing speed of up to 0.8 metre per second which is at the same time a new dimension of production speed for electronics. Millionfold print runs will become possible. The polymer printing method is based on especially developed printing methods: i.e. polymer molecules that are either conductive, semiconductive or isolating are printed in ultrathin layers highly accurately one above the other. These polymers can be processed similar to ink. Compared to traditional printing, however, the demands on precision as well as on the chemical characteristics of the printing inks are considerably higher. A single mistake in printing will immediately lead to malfunctions of the printed circuit.

A switching frequency of 1 Hz was achieved with the used structural resolution of 100 µm. Prof. Dr. Arved Hübler, head of the Institute for Print and Media Technology at Chemnitz University of Technology whose research team already introduced the first mass printed single transistor in 2003, explains: "We have successfully met a great challenge in this project because the printing of electronics put completely new demands on materials, methods and machines different from those known from traditional printing. The researchers at the Institute for Print and Media Technology have realised new developments in mechanical engineering and process technology in order to meet the very high demands of electronic circuits on printing characteristics."

A statement published by BASF on September 26, 2005 announces that the company will continue the cooperation with printed systems in order to develop a marketable technology. Substantial improvements of the circuit characteristics are expected by the application of the proprietarily-developed semiconductor and isolator materials. The Institute for Print and Media Technology at Chemnitz University of Technology will continue to make important scientific contributions. At the moment the Institute with about 45 employees is working in several large projects in the field of printed electronics.

The company printed systems GmbH, a startup founded in 2003 out of the university, considers the new technology of printing electronic in large quantities to be a great future market. According to a statement of printed systems executive director Prof. Dr. Olaf Gierhake, mass printing technologies offer a by far greater productivity than it is known from existing electronics production. In the future, mass printed electronics will enable the integration of simple electronic intelligence into many fields of daily life applications, such as RFID tags (identification tags readable by radio frequency ), flexible displays and keyboards, admission tickets or electronic signposts.

Together with their project partners, researchers from Chemnitz introduce their developments for the first time to the public on the trade fair Plastic Electronic in Frankfurt/Main (Halle 4.1, Stand D 19).

Further information: Chemnitz University of Technology, Institute for Print and Media Technology, Prof. Dr. Arved Hübler, Phone (03 71) 5 31 - 23 64, E-Mail pmhuebler@mb.tu-chemnitz.de.

Invitation to Press Conference

In the context of the trade fair Plastic Electronic, a press conference will take place on October 4, 2005 at 10:30 o'clock in the workshop room "München" at the Messe Frankfurt. Prof. Dr. Arved C. Hübler, head of the Institute for Print and Media Technology at Chemnitz University of Technology and executive director of printed systems, as well as the marketing manager of printed systems Andreas Ehrle are available for media enquiries. As the trade fair will be officially opened not until after the press conference, a separate registration for the press conference is necessary by October 2, 2005, even if you are already accredited for the trade fair. Registration is possible via E-Mail to info@burg-eins.de or via the contact for at http://www.printed-systems.de.

Important note for the media: At the press office of Chemnitz University of Technology, two relevant photos can be requested.
Photo 1: Printed ring oscillator with source drain structure (grey), semiconductor (yellow) and isolator layer (white). The gate is behind the isolator and not visible. Photo 2: The ring oscillator powers a small circuit with a LED (light emitting diode) that blinks. Photos: TU Chemnitz. You can find further photographs in the electronic photo archive of the company printed systems: http://www.printed-systems.de .

Weitere Informationen: http://www.printed-systems.de - Homepage of printed systems GmbH in Chemnitz (informations about polymer electronics, photos, ...)
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