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Nanotechnology Report

Barrier Films for Flexible Electronics: Needs Players & Opportunities 2010-2020

Barrier Films for Flexible Electronics: Needs Players & Opportunities 2010-2020
Category: Electronics Published: Apr 2010 Pages: 112 View Contents
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Electronic copies include a five user licence. Contact andrew.stewart@nano.org.uk for more information.

This concise and highly targeted report gives an in-depth review of the issues, as well as forecasts for OLEDs and OPV, in order to understand the influence that the development of flexible barriers will have on the mass deployment and adoption of flexible electronics and photovoltaics.

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Although it is possible to print many different kinds of electronic displays, in order for them to be commercially successful, they must be robust enough to survive for the necessary time and conditions required of the display. This condition has been a limitation of many printable electronic displays. Beyond printability and functionality, one of the most important requirements is encapsulation. Many of the materials used in printed electronic displays are chemically sensitive, and will react with many environmental components.

A large opportunity lies in the development of devices in a flexible form factor, allowing them to be more robust, lightweight and versatile in their use.

However, many of the materials used in OLED displays and organic photovoltaics are sensitive to the environment, limiting their lifetime. These materials can be protected using substrates and barriers such as glass and metal, but this results in a rigid device and does not satisfy the applications demanding flexible devices. Plastic substrates and transparent flexible encapsulation barriers can be used, but these offer little protection to oxygen and water, resulting in the devices rapidly degrading.

In order to achieve device lifetimes of tens of thousands of hours, water vapor transmission rates (WVTR) must be 10-6 g/m2/day, and oxygen transmission rates (OTR) must be < 10-3 cm3/m2/day. For Organic Photovoltaics, the required WVTR is not as stringent as OLEDs require but is still very high at a level of 10-5 g/m2/day. These transmission rates are several orders of magnitude smaller than what is possible using any plastic substrate, and they can also be several orders of magnitude smaller than what can be measured using common equipment designed for this purpose. For these (and other) reasons, there has been intense interest in developing transparent barrier materials with much lower permeabilities.

This concise and unique report gives an in-depth review of the needs, emerging solutions and players. It addresses specific topics such as:

  • Companies which are active in the development of high barrier films and their achievements on the field to date. Surface smoothness and defects (such as cracks and pinholes) and the effect that these characteristics would have on the barrier behavior of the materials studied.
  • Traditional methods of measurement of permeability are reaching the end of their abilities. The MOCON WVTR measurement device, which has been an industry standard, cannot give adequate measurements at the low levels of permeability required for Organic Photovoltaics and OLEDs. Other methods of measurement and equipment developed are being discussed.
  • Forecasts for OLEDs and OPV, in order to understand the influence that the development of flexible barriers would have at the mass deployment and adoption of these technologies.

For those developing flexible electronics, seeking materials needs and opportunities, this is a must-read report.

An in-depth review of the needs, emerging solutions and players