Scientists develop transparent electrode manufacturing process

By Park Sae-jin Posted : June 21, 2010, 10:56 Updated : June 21, 2010, 10:56
South Korean scientists said Monday that they have developed a process to make flexible, transparent electrodes needed to build next-generation displays and touch screens.

The Sungkyunkwan University team led by Ahn Jong-hyun said they had used a new graphene material and a "roll-to-roll" process to make see-through electrodes that are both flexible and stretchable.

Graphene is an atom-thin sheet of common graphite, widely used to make pencils, that was first discovered in 2006. It has good electrical conductivity characteristics and is much cheaper than indium tin oxide (ITO) used in existing screens and panels.

"Laboratory tests showed that the thin, wide sheets of transparent electrodes have properties on par with ITOs made by conventional vacuum sputtering systems," Ahn said. He added that the latest discovery is noteworthy since the world is scrambling to find a replacement material for the very scarce indium mineral.

The professor for the school's new materials department also said that scientists were able to make the sheets up to 30-inch wide, compared to centimeter-wide graphene products made in the past.

"In theory, the size of electrodes can be made much larger if proper manufacturing facilities are available," he said.

He said the new material does no break easily and can be bent, making it ideal for various portable devices and for use in solar cells.

The professor said that research on the new material took less than three years, with numerous domestic and international patents being won.

The expert said that if full-fledged investment is made, mass production will likely be possible in 5-10 years.

"The new device can effectively replace all ITOs," the expert said. The ITO market is already a multi-billion dollar business area that is expected to grow significantly with the introduction of smartphones and other mobile communication devices such as Apple's iPad.

The university said that besides Ahn, the school's chemistry professor Hong Byung-hee co-led the research with the findings published in the latest online issue of the Nature Nanotechnology journal.

The findings are also expected to be published by Chemistry World Magazine, MIT Technology Review and Physics Today.//Yonhap

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