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Plastics supplier Solvay ups ante in printed electronics market

A business unit of plastics supplier Solvay has signed a commercial agreement with Thin Film Electronics ASA, a Norwegian company with a novel technique for producing rewritable memories printed on a commercial scale in a continuous roll-to-roll process. The agreement has Solvay Solexis marketing its newly developed Solvene polymer for applications in printed electronics with Thin Film.

Solvay (Brussels, Belgium) and Thin Film began their collaboration on the development of printed electronics in 2007. Printed electronics is the manufacturing of electronic components in high volume and on flexible substrates through the use of printing techniques that utilize functional inks. It is a means to efficiently manufacture electronic components. Though the printing technology generally is the magic of the process, plastic sheet or film processors can look to these applications as a potentially huge new market. According to research consultancy IDTechEx, the market for printed electronics, currently embryonic, is projected to grow to $55 billion by 2020, of which about one-third is expected to be used in printed transistors and memory. Applications for such devices include integrated circuits, sensors, flexible displays, memory modules, photovoltaic cells, batteries, rollable solar cells, diagnostic devices, radio frequency identification tags (RFIDs), smart packages, and anti-counterfeit and anti-theft devices.

Thin Film and Solvay started their collaboration in the development of polymer printed memories in 2007, with the goal to optimize Solvay's ferroelectric polymer materials to enhance the performance of Thin Film's memory technology. "As we ramp up production with our manufacturing partners, the agreement with Solvay assures commercial supply of memory polymer in large quantities," says Rolf Åberg, CEO of Thin Film (Oslo). Thin Film's technology is based on using a ferroelectric polymer as a functional memory material sandwiched between two sets of electrodes. The technology is fully printable in high-volume roll-to-roll machines. Both companies worked to further develop Solvay's fluoropolymers for this technology and these applications; Solvay business unit Solvay Solexis is a major supplier of fluorinated materials.

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