T-shirt technique turns out flat screens

By Kimberly Patch, Technology Research News

The current technique for spreading light-emitting polymers on glass to make passive matrix computer screens is wasteful, according to researchers from Siemens Corporation in Germany. It's also not something you want to try with a screen surface the size of a wall or billboard.

Spin-coating, which uses centrifugal force to spread polymers on a surface that's spinning 2000 times per minute, results in a nice even coat of the polymer diodes that light up an organic light emitting diode (OLED) computer display. But it's a messy business.

Somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of the polymer actually ends up on the surface; the other 90 to 95 percent either flies off during the process or ends up in the works, said Georg Wittmann, project manager for the OLED project at Siemens.

In addition, it becomes more difficult to use spin coating as the screen size gets larger, said Wittmann. "The larger [the surface] the more difficult it is to coat the outer areas of the glass," he said.

The researchers modified an existing printing process to provide an alternative way to spread polymers on large surfaces. Screen printing, which guides inks onto a surface through fine mesh, is an order of magnitude less wasteful than spin coating. "We use 80 or 90 percent," of the polymers, said Wittmann.

The process has the potential to produce relatively inexpensive computer screens large enough to cover a wall or billboard. The catch is the researchers' modified printing process cannot print the polymers in as fine a resolution as they can be spun. This means the printing technique is only appropriate for fairly large screens. In addition, although the process allows for different colors to be printed in different places on the screen, the resolution is not high enough to produce full-color screens that can make any color appear anywhere on the screen.

Screen printing is an established process used not only to guide heavy inks onto T-shirts, but also to lay down electric conducting pastes on printed circuit boards.

The catch to adapting screen printing for making computer displays was the viscosity of the polymer the researchers need to print on the glass part of a computer screen. "The tricky part is the emitting layer in this screen printing technique is extremely low viscosity... we managed to develop a process that we can use with very low viscous printing solution," Wittmann said.

The viscosity of water, for instance, is 1 millipascal seconds, while the viscosity of the pastes traditionally used in screen printing are much higher -- more like 1,000 or 2,000 millipascal seconds, Wittmann said. The OLE polymer is much more like water than paste, with a viscosity of 10 to 20 millipascal seconds, he said. "It's almost water-like. You wouldn't be able to distinguish it [by] feel."

The idea is a "fresh and useful manufacturing approach for large-area polymer OLED displays," said David Braun, an associate professor of electrical engineering at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

Although the idea is not novel because silk screening T-shirt designs is well-established, the research is important because "screen printed displays work, perhaps better than one might have predicted," Braun said. "The simple printing technique allows people to make relatively complex electronic devices. It's potentially useful for printing large area... displays [and] I suspect that there are some cost advantages," he said.

The research could help polymer OLED displays to gain wider acceptance of the market in the next few years, Braun added.

The researchers are working spreading the polymers more evenly, making the edges where the ink ends sharper, and improving the resolution, said Wittmann. The current process can print a spot of polymer, or pixel, 300 microns away from the next one. Spin coating can achieve a resolution an order of magnitude better, with pixels separated by only 20 or 30 microns, he said.

Wittmann's research colleagues were Jan Birnstock, Jörg Blässing, Arvid Hunze Matthias Stößel, Karsten Heuser and J. Wörle from Siemens in Germany, and Albrecht Winnacker of Erlangen-Nürnberg University in Germany. They published the research in the June 11, 2001 issue of Applied Physics Letters. The research was funded by OSRAM GmbH.

Timeline:   Now
Funding:   Corporate
TRN Categories:   Materials Science and Engineering
Story Type:   News
Related Elements:  Technical paper, "Screen-Printed Passive Matrix Displays based on Light-Emitting Polymers," Applied Physics Letters, June 11, 2001.


July 25, 2001

Page One

Sounds attract camera

Interface lets you point and speak

Quantum logic counts on geometry

T-shirt technique turns out flat screens

Rating systems put privacy at risk


Research News Roundup
Research Watch blog

View from the High Ground Q&A
How It Works

RSS Feeds:
News  | Blog  | Books 

Ad links:
Buy an ad link


Ad links: Clear History

Buy an ad link

Home     Archive     Resources    Feeds     Offline Publications     Glossary
TRN Finder     Research Dir.    Events Dir.      Researchers     Bookshelf
   Contribute      Under Development     T-shirts etc.     Classifieds
Forum    Comments    Feedback     About TRN

© Copyright Technology Research News, LLC 2000-2006. All rights reserved.