Polymer electronics makes a breakthrough

Munich, Germany: In the very near future industry experts are convinced that polymer electronic circuits—in other words microchips made of plastic—will be a part of everyday life.

At the Productronica 2005 event a partial production line for manufacturing polymer electronics has been built by the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration, Asys Automatisierungssysteme, EKRA Automatisierungssysteme and Rehm. The exhibit shows how the seven production steps for this technology are implemented.

The basic requirement for the inexpensive production of flexible polymer electronic circuits is the interplay between additive printing techniques, as is the case with screen printing using the “roll-to-roll” processing of polymer films. In Munich, the production of an all-polymer ring oscillator on 200mm wide roll of PET film with 0.5µm copper metallisation is being demonstrated. In order to create the flexible polymer transistors and logic circuits that have drain-source structures with a channel length of 20µm, the first step is the structuring of the copper metallisation. In the second step, the polymer semiconductor materials are deposited, then the polymer gate dielectric. After the screen printing of the gate electrode and the application of the interdielectric, the vias are opened. Finally, in the seventh step, the silver conducting paste is applied through screen printing. Once these steps are accomplished and the completed circuit has run through the poly line, it is inspected on a testing station to ensure proper functioning.

Some experts believe this process will create the chance to make inexpensive “disposable electronics” for the mass market. Possible applications range from intelligent clothing labels, ID tags, smart tickets, security elements in bank notes and smart medical bandages.

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