Press release BoxID: 266580 (Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH)
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  • Klaus Hecker
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Organic and Printed Electronics - Light-Weight Reading Devices

(PresseBox) (Frankfurt am Main, ) Electronic reading devices will change our reading habits. However, they are still a long way away from the classic newspaper format. Consequently, producers of organic and printed electronics are developing large-area displays that are thin, light-weight and even rollable. Current trends and the latest developments in this field will be on display at LOPE-C in Frankfurt, Germany from June 23-25, 2009.

Printed newspapers have set certain standards with regard to reading comfort: they are light-weight, clearly designed, and they offer a sharp contrast that allows readers to easily discern letters and images. Electronic papers would offer an additional advantage: the ability to update an edition with the push of a button. Although these products are not yet available for purchase, they are already setting future trends.

Media marketers are increasing their offering of electronic reading devices. For example, US-based Inc. announced its "Kindle DX" which is a product that can digitally store up to 3,500 books. In addition, its screen is 2.5 times larger than their standard device the size of a paperback book. However, this new device tips the scale at over a pound more since the driver electronics are based on classical silicon technology that is applied to plate glass. This, unfortunately, adds weight to the detriment of user comfort.

Robust Displays Made of Plastics

Consequently, US-based Plastic Logic Inc. is paving new avenues. The company wants to produce a full-size "e-reader" in standard journal size with the help of organic materials. "A glass-based display would provide a considerable mechanical engineering challenge, but our plastic display allows us to build a lighter weight, more durable device", says Martin Jackson, Vice President Technology at Plastic Logic.

Like in other reading devices, "electrophoretic displays" are utilized. They guarantee low energy consumption, can hold a charge for several weeks and create sharp black-and-white contrasts similar to newspaper print. The "E-Ink"- technology is based on light and dark particles that swim in a clear solution that, when electrically charged, will move so that various gray-scales can be displayed. Whenever the power is shut off, the particles remain in their current position, thereby saving energy. However, the driver electronics of the e-reader display consists of organic transistors that are applied to a flexible, unbreakable foil substrate.

Plastic Logic wants to log its first commercial success with this innovation. The corporation broke ground on a production facility in Dresden, Germany in September 2007 in order to deliver e-readers to initial pilot customers in the second half of 2009. The official product launch is planned for 2010 which will allow the manufacturer to pass an important milestone on the way to the concept of "e-paper".

From the E-Reader to the Rollable Newspaper

The market for e-paper displays will grow at approximately 50 percent annually according to estimates by the market research firm Displaybank. Sales of US$ 260 million are projected as early as 2010; an eight-fold increase is expected for 2015. Analysts are projecting market volumes of US$ seven billion in 2020.

Organic and printed electronics will blaze the trail to that end. This technology allows electronic components such as displays, light-emitting diodes or RFID-transponders to be printed with the help of plastics, so-called "polymers". Since polymers dissolve in liquids and offer isolating, semi-conductive or conductive properties depending on their chemical composition, they also lend themselves to extremely cost-effective production of the electronic components (see background information). Based on this principle, manufacturers are developing devices whose display and driver electronics can be printed completely in one shot and which are larger than full-size, rollable and even multi-colored.

The Organic Electronics Association (OE-A), which represents the complete supply chain of organic and printed electronics with more than 120 member companies and is a working group within the German Engineering Federation (VDMA), will introduce a new applications and technology roadmap at LOPE-C which will present an outlook on future developments of flexible displays. In addition, numerous presentations at LOPE-C will be dedicated to this topic.

Trends and Technologies on Display at LOPE-C

Additional trends on the topic of "organic and printed electronics" will be on display at the LOPE-C Large-area, Organic & Printed Electronics Convention, to take place as a conference with an accompanying exhibition at the Convention Center, Messe Frankfurt, Germany from June 23-25, 2009. The OE-A has invited experts from business and research to this world premiere to exchange knowledge and ideas on opportunities, products and developments in the field of organic and printed electronics.

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Background: Organic and Printed Electronics

Organic and printed electronics are opening a whole new spectrum of applications to complement conventional silicon technology as they enable the production of thin, light-weight and flexible electronic components.

They are based on a combination of:

- Techniques that enable large-area, high-volume coating and patterning
- Plastic molecules that are deposited on a light-weight, flexible substrate and, depending upon their chemical composition, have insulating, semi-conductive or conductive properties. Typically, these materials are organic, but inorganic materials can be used as well.

Plastics can be composed of large molecule chains ("polymers") or "small" molecules. However, they differ in the way they are processed to produce electronic components. Small molecules are usually vaporized in a vacuum process. Polymers, on the other hand, are applied in a mass-printing process, as they are liquid-soluble and enable inexpensive, layer-by-layer production of electronic components.

Therefore, organic and printed electronics are, for example, suitable for the production of:

- Printed transistors that can be used as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags in merchandise logistics
- Organic, light emitting diodes (OLED)
- Organic photovoltaic cells that absorb light and transform it into electric energy
- Flexible batteries to provide energy for mobile devices
- Printed sensors to measure environmental parameters such as brightness, pressure, temperature or humidity
- Organic memories for the storage of digital information
- Flexible displays for electronic books or SmartCards
- Printed, single-use measurement devices for medical diagnostics
- and further innovative applications.