The Centre of Process Innovation (CPI) has announced that it has joined a UK based collaboration called ‘Gravia’, to develop the next generation of ultra-barrier materials using graphene for the production of flexible transparent plastic electronic based displays for the next generation of smartphones, tablets and wearable electronics.

The graphene market is predicted to be worth more than £800million by 2023 and could transform the manufacturing landscape in the UK.The project, including the University of Cambridge, FlexEnable and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), expects to deliver a feasible material and process system. It builds upon existing investments by Innovate UK and the EPSRC in this area.

“The collaboration brings together world class supply chain expertise across the UK to bridge the gap from Graphene research to the manufacturing of commercial flexible display screens,” said James Johnstone, business development manager at CPI. “CPI’s role in the project is to use roll-to-roll atomic layer deposition technologies to scale up, test and fabricate the ultra barrier materials.”

The incorporation of graphene interlayers offers potential for flexible displays. Its gas blocking properties will enable barrier materials that are flexible, transparent, robust, and impervious to many molecules. Gravia will seek to accelerate product development, improving upon current ultra barrier performance and lifetimes by producing consistent barrier materials and processes on large area substrates by utilising specialist growth techniques. The key challenge will be to develop large-area poly-crystalline graphene films which maximise performance whilst mitigating process imperfections.

The demonstration of feasible working prototypes will represent an achievement in the race to bring wearable electronics and plastic displays to the mass market. The project is exploring the necessary industrial process parameters to ensure that the barriers produced feature high performance at a price point that allows market adoption.

Future development work will focus on transferring the technology from proof of concept to pilot production scale.