Tuesday, 23 Jan 2018

Smartkem awarded €1.8m EU grant to speed-up adoption of organic semiconductor backplanes

The two-year project will focus on the industrialisation and transfer of their organic semiconductor platform over large area plastic substrates using slit coat processing

5 Sep 2016 | Editor

SmartKem has announced the company has secured a €1.8 million EU grant to support the industrialisation and technology transfer of their semiconductor platform to display makers in Asia.

With a €850k contribution from SmartKem, the €2.65 million project will accelerate the adoption of organic semiconductors as a universal thin film transistor (TFT) backplane platform for the mass manufacture of flexible and curved mobile, embedded and large area OLED and LCD displays.

SmartKem will lead the 2-year project, which will focus on the industrialisation and transfer of their organic semiconductor platform over large area plastic substrates using standard slit coat processing. The main objective will be to maintain electrical and physical uniformity and quality of transistor performance over large area formats for mass production on existing production lines in Asia.

Smartkem - Flexible printed electronics

Figure: Smartkem - Flexible printed electronics

The requirements for the project deliverables are driven by a number of commercial agreements that SmartKem have with display OEMs for the adoption of the truFLEX technology platform for flexible display manufacture. The success of the project will ensure a strong European position in the supply of specialised, high value materials to this new, high growth sector of the display industry in Asia.

Smartkem believe that organic semiconductors are a key enabling component in the evolution of flexible active matrix displays, able to offer manufacturers a route to the production of high performance curved, foldable and even roll-able OLED and LCD displays. SmartKem is offering innovative organic semiconductors to be used in low temperature, solution coating production of high performance OTFTs on plastic.

Dr Hugh Williamson, COO and Project lead, said, "The resource and expertise required to transfer a new technology platform such as truFLEX is a demanding and time consuming endeavour. This funding under a collaborative EU project will ensure access to the very best complementary expertise within Europe to significantly accelerate the pre-production and scale up of the technology to meet the high and immediate demand we are seeing in the OLED and LCD display industry in Asia for our materials."
Steve Kelly, SmartKem CEO, said, "We are delighted to receive this funding boost, which will accelerate our current work to industrialise the development of our TFT platform technology for the manufacture of flexible and curved displays in Asia. Flexible OLED an LCD displays will be integral to a new generation of display based devices for mobile, automotive, industrial and large area applications. The demand we are seeing for our technology emphasises the strength of the EU chemicals industry and the unique enabling nature of materials innovation in generating the growth of new markets such as the flexible display industry."

Project outline as listed on EU EASME (Executive Agency for SMEs) website

A universal thin film transistor platform for flexible and curved displays

Smartkem (SKEM) proposes a project which will accelerate the uptake of their flexible transistor platform technology (incorporating their proprietary organic semiconductor, truFLEX), into backplane drivers for the manufacture of flexible and curved electronic displays. SKEM’s technology enables the low temperature processing of high performance transistors onto plastic for the first time. This allows mechanical flexibility to be combined with electronic performance previously only demonstrated by rigid inorganics, along with significant reductions to processing costs.

This will enable SKEM’s customers to produce entirely new form factors for display-based consumer electronics: flexible, body conforming, lightweight, unbreakable devices with high resolution and low power consumption (longer battery lifetimes). This can be achieved with low risk to adoption, using refitted standard production lines. As a universal transistor platform, SKEM will supply the existing market for liquid crystal displays (LCDs), while also facilitating the new market for organic light emitting diode (OLED) displays.

The project will involve customer engagement (customers are already engaged in joint development work, showing commitment with signed Letters of Intent) and commercial planning (WP2), development of the technology platform to meet customer requirements (WP3), demonstration of the technology in full display devices (WP4) and preparation for commercial roll out, involving technology transfer to industrial process lines, and scale-up of truFLEX production (WP5). A strong regime of project management (WP1) dissemination and communication (WP6) will support the aims of the project. These developments will elevate the technology from initial demonstration in the relevant industrial application (TRL6 - first LCD demonstrator completed prior to project), to full commercial readiness after the project (TRL9). SKEM will obtain EUR 200m sales by 2023 at a viable price point of EUR4,000/litre.

Project Acronym: FlexTrans

EU Contribution: 1.852.200

Project duration: Saturday, 9 January, 2016

Call ID: H2020-SMEINST-2-2016-2017

Beneficiary: Smartkem Limited

Source: EASME website


About SmartKem

SmartKem, headquartered in St Asaph, North Wales, opened its large scale laboratory facilities in 2011at Hexagon Tower, in Manchester, the UK’s only vertical science park. The company recently expanded at the site to occupy 8,000 sq. ft. to accommodate its growing team, which now stands at over 30 employees.

SmartKem’s organic semiconductor platform offers world leading electronic performance combined with physical ultra-flexibility – but unlike traditional inorganic materials it does not require a vacuum and is processed at room temperature using standard solution coating equipment. This offers OEMs a high performance, unbreakable TFT platform for the production of flexible displays, sensors and logic circuits, all produced on low cost plastic substrates, for the first time.

Source: SmartKem


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