Despite their promise, however, flexible polymer-based electronics remain highly vulnerable to the elements, as water and oxygen molecules can easily seep into these plastic devices and degrade sensitive internal components. Current protection technologies involve the deposition of multiple layers of inorganic and organic films over the active substrate, but such ‘stacks’ of protection still allow permeation at a rate of one-thousandth of a gram per square meter per day—three orders of magnitude higher than an ‘ideal’ barrier.
By adjusting the nanoparticle mix, the researchers also found that they could incorporate new functionalities into the plastic moisture barriers. Using this approach, the team have created a range of tailor-made products including ultraviolet light-blocking films, heat-extracting films and even a calcium-based integrated sensor that precisely measures moisture permeation. These innovations have been recognized by the granting of 50 patents for systems developed by the Tera-Barrier Films team.
“[Japanese multinational] KISCO has linked a lot of customers to us—it’s a strategic partnership,” says Auch. “They see a very big potential for solar cells and OLED devices in the Asia-Pacific region, and it’s a large market.”
In addition to these applications, Tera-Barrier Films’ products have potential for use in food and medical packaging—positioning the company to achieve high profitability once mass-production begins in the next few years.
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