Success in print

BASF Future Business is jointly developing printed electronics technology based on organic semiconductors that can be used in an array of everyday applications.

BASF Future Business, Ludwigshafen, is jointly developing printed electronics technology based on organic semiconductors that can be used in a broad variety of everyday applications.

BASF entered into two projects with Lucent Technologies’ Bell Labs and printed systems GmbH, Chemnitz, Germany, to create this technology, which is cheaper and less complex than traditional silicon-based processes used to manufacture integrated circuits.

The recently completed project resulted in the production of the first fully printed, low cost mass-producible ring oscillator, an integrated circuit made up of transistors that produce defined periodical electrical signals. In more complex circuits such ring oscillators are often used as clock generators.

With this prototype the BASF team was able to confirm that its integrated circuit was fully functional. According to BASF, this represents an industry first and a major advancement on the way to printing low cost, highly flexible integrated circuitry using established offset and gravure-based printing processes.

“The production of the ring oscillator was a significant breakthrough as it showed that the manufacturing process does work,” said Dr. Florian Dötz, research scientist at BASF. “We can now move forward to the next stage.”

The second project, which involves BASF and printed systems, will now look to tap into new markets and applications in which the printed electronics technology can be used. Examples of possible applications are RFID tags, flexible displays or lighting devices, electronic labels and large-area sensors.

“We estimate that markets for printed electronics technology may reach a potential of more than €20bn in the next 7 to 10 years, with more to come,” said Dr. Peter Eckerle, project manager at BASF Future Business. “Our goal now is to tailor and optimise our process to specific applications, and to develop marketable products together with partners within the next three years.”