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Monday, 9 December 2019

The era of printed electronics is beginning

Large scale integrated circuit (LSI) prototypes straight out of the printer. [Image: Thor Balkhed]

Printed electronics

Swedish researchers say they have taken the missing step to bring electronic circuit printing from the laboratory to the factories, making it possible to apply organic electronics on a large scale.



The decisive step was the integration between the new field of printed electronics and traditional silicon-based electronics manufactured by traditional mask and lithography techniques.

"This is a decisive step for a technology that was born at Linkoping University just over 17 years ago," said Professor Magnus Berggren.



"The advantage we have here is that we don't have to mix different manufacturing methods: Everything is done by screen printing and in relatively few processing steps. The key is to make sure the different layers finish in exactly the right place," added his colleague Peter Ersman.

Printing electronic circuits

Printing fully functional electronic circuits - they can be printed on flexible, transparent plastics or virtually any other material - has required a number of innovations over the past 17 years.

A first step was the creation of screen-printing screens that let you print extremely thin lines so that semiconductor inks can form components with precision and high density per area.

At least three additional challenges have since been faced: Reduce circuit size, increase quality so that the probability of all transistors in the circuit working is as close as possible to 100%, and - not least - integrating with the silicon-based circuits needed to process signals and communicate with the environment.

"One of the major advances is that we have been able to use printed circuits to interface with traditional silicon-based electronics. We have developed various types of printed circuits based on organic electrochemical transistors. One of them is the shift register, which can interface and handle contact between the silicon-based circuit and other electronic components such as sensors and displays. This means that we can now use a silicon chip with fewer contacts, which requires a smaller area and thus is much cheaper. , "said Berggren.

The internet of things will be the first major beneficiary of print electronics.

IoT and screens

The development of semiconductor inks was another decisive element for the miniaturization process and also for higher quality. "We can now place more than 1,000 organic electrochemical transistors on an A4 size plastic substrate and connect them in different ways to create different types of printed integrated circuits," said team member Professor Simone Fabiano.

These large-scale integrated circuits, or LSIs, can be used, for example, to power electrochromic screens themselves manufactured as printed electronics.

The big expectation, however, is that printed electronics will give the final push to make the low cost, low power circuits required by the internet of things.




Bibliography:

Article: All-Printed Large-Scale Integrated Circuits Based on Organic Electrochemical Transistors
Authors: Peter Andersson Ersman, Roman Lassnig, Jan Strandberg, Deyu You, Vahid Keshmiri, Robert Forchheimer, Simone Fabiano, Goran Gustafsson, Magnus Berggren
Journal: Nature Communications
Vol .: 10, Article number: 5053
DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-019-13079-4

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