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August 24th, 2009
The engine of the new printed electronics will be printed transistors on flexible substrates that can be one tenth to one hundredth of the cost of those in simple silicon chips.
Most of the work has been directed towards organic transistors because they are easy to print and some believe that they are a good route to ambipolar transistors (p and n type in one device) and light emitting transistors. However, tussling for the low cost slot - the main market need - we now have a rapidly increasing numbers of research centers working on inorganic printed transistors, both printed silicon and printed metal oxides, particularly based on zinc oxide semiconductors. These exhibit greater charge mobility in the semiconductor and therefore higher frequency of operation opening up larger potential markets.
Some say they also offer lower material costs, particularly if low temperature processes can be employed. Printed silicon nanoparticles have received the least attention because the inks are very difficult to make and often high temperature annealing is needed after the deposition.
In the USA, companies such as Kovio and Nanogram have pioneered printed silicon transistors and Epson and others in Japan have done work. Now some very interesting advances are being reported in South Africa, the scientific papers including one reporting collaboration with the US company Printovate. Daniel Gamota is co-founder, with former Motorola colleague J.Zhang, and president of Printovate, Inc. which developed a clean-tech large area electronics manufacturing technology, for point-of-care diagnostics, lighting, and renewable energy applications.
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