The global demand for printable electronics (PE) has grown substantially with the emergence of smartphones and tablets, solar panels, and the growth of wireless and sensor communication technologies.
The NRC collaborated with industry to make Canada a global powerhouse in printable electronics and maximize the opportunities in this emerging market.
"Most involved in the printed electronics industry wouldn't have thought of Canada as a hotbed for technology development in the field. That has changed in a very short time span." Those were the words of Raghu Das, CEO of the British company IDTechEx in 2014, only two years after the launch of the NRC's Printable Electronics program.
"In just five years, our efforts and initiatives have enabled us to establish a significant Canadian PE ecosystem and invent a new range of technologies that are now of interest to the big names in the industry." says Thomas Ducellier, executive director of the Printable Electronics program.
Strong (L)inks with industry
Developed by the NRC's chemistry and device physics experts, molecular ink is used in various fields, including the manufacture of high-density circuits for bezels in smartphones.
"This new technology was developed in partnership with Montreal company GGI International, a world leader in user interface technologies and touch applications. The ink boasts superior electrical and mechanical performance over conventional printing inks, while remaining more economical than nanomaterials." explains Dr. Patrick Malenfant, Senior Research Officer.
"We were impressed by the strategic value of working with the National Research Council. The prospects of developing new inks not commercially available and able to meet our specifications provided our management with compelling reasons to work with the NRC. Needless to say, we obtained great value from our investment." says Sylvie Lafrenière, Director of Research and Development at GGI International.
Document security is the subject of sustained attention by banking institutions, which deploy numerous strategies to combat fraudulent copying. One of these institutions relied on the NRC's knowledge of functional nanomaterials to develop a unique solution.
Within five years, the NRC succeeded in creating a disruptive technology in a highly competitive advanced security technologies environment.
"We have used nanolithography to design flexible nanomanufacturing structures that are capable of providing visual effects and hidden security features." reveals Dr. Teodor Veres, Senior Research Officer, NRC. "The project also led us to extend the NRC's micro and nanomanufacturing platform applications to new fields of importance to Canadian business because, initially, it was developed for bioanalytical device applications," he adds.
The next step is marketing this new technology.
An international reputation
The market for third-generation photovoltaics is gaining momentum in Europe and Asia, causing increased demand for advanced materials and their marketing.
Led by Dr. Ye Tao, Senior Research Officer, a team made up of chemists and physicists from the NRC successfully developed fluoropolymers, a material that can be used in organic electronics, from photovoltaics to photodetectors to transistors.
"It's one of a kind and has coveted features such as stability, flexibility and lower production costs; what's more, it's environmentally friendly and generates electricity." explains Tao.
With an estimated 150 percent increase in the global market for printed, flexible, and organic electronics from 2017 to 2027, the NRC will now tackle another major challenge: to cement the Canadian industry's position so that it can successfully conquer global markets.
Long description of the infographic "Printable electronics at the NRC"
Printable electronics at the NRC by the numbers: $60M spent in R&D; 125 Canadian and international companies now involved in the Canadian PE ecosystem; 1 Canadian industrial consortium composed of 14 members; 18 technologies and new product opportunities transferred to clients; 47 patents in the intellectual property portfolio in printable electronics; and, several training courses including training in partnership with the Printability and Graphic Communications Institute (ICI).