Printed organic electronics is revolutionizing our daily interaction with electronics: an ever-increasing number of applications can be enriched through electronic features. BASF materials and inks for printed organic electronics enable applications and products that were unthinkable a few years ago.
Displays for the latest smartphones, televisions and monitors are not only becoming thinner and thinner, but they can also be curved today. Thanks to new materials and technologies, completely novel, flexible yet robust displays will in future be available.
These new features require special properties of backplanes. Backplanes consist of millions of tiny electric switches, so called thin film transistors (TFTs), which control every pixel individually. Enabled by printed organic electronics, organic TFTs (OTFTs) can now be printed on thin, flexible plastic substrates. This technology offers significant cost and performance advantages over conventional processes.
BASF New Business develops new semiconductor and dielectric inks, as well as all other inks necessary for the manufacture of OTFTs. These inks can be applied at low temperatures by standard printing methods.
With the advent of the “Internets of Things”, objects are becoming increasingly intelligent and more and more connected to one another. Household appliances can already be controlled today by smartphones. And that is just the beginning. Sensors play an essential role here.
Together with InnovationLab, BASF New Business has developed a pressure sensor that is not only thin and flexible but also allows high-resolution signal detection. This high-performance sensor can detect at once the shape, size and pressure of objects that are on it.
Its active matrix backplane, which consists of OTFTs, makes it especially effective. The backplane ensures that the sensor can work accurately, and problems with false touch or crosstalk are avoided. This is particularly important, when the pressure of fast-moving items has to be precisely measured, for example, to control the access to public spaces or to check contact pressure on print rolls or automotive parts.
The OTFTs and the pressure-sensitive layer are printed. Manufacture does not involve any high-temperature process steps and is therefore compatible with plastic films. A further advantage of the technology is that product and system designers can use the entire available surface area. In general, this concept is suitable for applications that require high resolution, unbreakable pressure sensors that can be produced at competitive prices.
Today, labels and packages have little to do with electronics. But that will change in future. To achieve it, however, electronics must be as cost effective as possible and compatible with the processes and materials that are used in the packaging industry. Printed organic electronics offers a solution here: since electronic components are printed and do not require high temperatures, the inks can be applied on flexible substrates such as plastic. The result are intelligent packages, which offer much more than brand protection and promotion.
A demonstrator that BASF New Business has developed together with InnovationLab proves this to be possible. Integrated LEDs, a pressure sensor and OTFTs transform the label on a package into an interactive voting tool. Customers can decide at the touch of a finger how many LEDs light up and thus, for instance, vote for their favorite flavor.
The demonstrator shows how well the requirements of packaging and electronics can be harmonized. Most of the components are printed on plastic film and can thus be integrated smoothly and cost efficiently into the established processes of the packaging industry, such as roll-to-roll printing.
Printed organic electronics is the ideal solution to the demands of intelligent packaging and labels. Our materials have already proven themselves effective in display backplanes and we are continuously optimizing and extending our ink range to open up further application areas.”
The demonstrator shows how well the requirements of packaging and electronics can be harmonized. Most of the components are printed on plastic film and can thus be integrated cost efficiently, using the established processes of the packaging industry, such as roll-to-roll printing.