CPI and Beneq collaborate to commercialise ALD technologies

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The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) and Beneq have signed a long term collaboration agreement for the use of atomic layer deposition (ALD) technologies in printable electronics applications.

The agreement brings together Beneq’s high precision vacuum coating alongside CPI’s capability in the scale up of printed electronics. Working together, the two organisations say they will provide world leading capability for the commercialisation of ALD techniques, creating an open access environment for companies to develop ultra barrier solutions in photovoltaics, Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs), microelectronics and sensors.

Alf Smith, business development manager at CPI, said: “The partnership between Beneq and CPI means that we will be able to constantly refine and optimise our capability and associated processes over the coming years to ensure that we remain a world leader in ALD coatings.”

ALD is applied as a specialist barrier coating technique used for the protection of optoelectronic devices and is being utilised by CPI to add moisture ultra-barrier protection layers to flexible polymer substrates used to produce optoelectronic devices using sensitive active electronic materials.

Thin films produced using the ALD method are said to be cost efficient, defect free and completely conformal, thus providing superior barriers and surface passivation compared with other deposition techniques. These properties suit them for applications that utilise flexible films such as OLEDs, flexible display screens, photovoltaic cells and wearable electronics amongst others.

Current commercial barrier films, based on multilayer laminates are typically prohibitively expensive for large area applications while single thin layer barrier structures from ALD deposition are claimed to have demonstrated the potential to reduce this cost whilst retaining the requisite barrier and flexibility properties.

Dr Mikko Söderlund, head of industrial solutions at Beneq added: “Beneq and CPI share a vision of the enabling role of ALD in flexible electronics. Pilot-scale operation and rapid prototyping with our equipment provides Beneq with invaluable information on system performance, and our customers benefit from an established R&D platform and faster time to market with ALD applications.”

The agreement follows CPI’s recent installation of two atomic layer deposition tools from Beneq for the development of conformal nano-scale coatings; one batch ALD tool and one state of the art roll-to-roll ALD (R2R ALD) system.

Further application areas of ALD and R2R ALD will be developed during the collaboration, where conformal nano-scale coatings are beneficial which would include transport, interfacial and contact layers in devices such as OLEDs, PV and sensors.