Taking the elevator into the nano world

From molecules to materials – the printed electronics process chain.
(Photo: Technoseum Mannheim /R. Bappert)

FAU invites visitors to play with its exhibits at the DASA – Working World Exhibition in Dortmund

Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU) is taking part in the exhibition “Nano! Uses and visions for a new technology” in Dortmund. The DASA – Working World Exhibition will be giving an insight into research and technology until 9 October 2011. The exhibition invites you to marvel at natural phenomena based on nano-effects: lotus leaves with self-cleaning properties and live geckos that can even walk vertically up sleek glass surfaces. Then take a ride on an imaginary elevator into the nano world and look at its foundations and uses.

The fair also gives you the chance to visit the “From molecules to parts – printable electronics” exhibition, developed jointly by the Engineering of Advanced Materials (EAM) Cluster of Excellence and the post-graduate programme, Disperse Systems for Electronics Applications, at the Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. This exhibition displays the process chain from the synthesis of nano-particles to their refinement and processing and, finally, their use as LED displays, solar cells and sensors.

The basic materials used are synthetically-produced conducting or semiconducting nano-particles: such as silver (Ag), indium tin oxide (ITO) and zinc oxide (ZnO). You can see the particles being constructed using state-of-the-art transmission electron microscope technology.

The particles are given tailor-made properties in terms of colour, electrical conductivity and surface characteristics by controlling their size, shape and internal structure, and coating their surface. Exhibition goers can use a sensor to confirm that transparent ITO layers, composed of particles which have undergone different heat treatments to influence the electronic structure, display different levels of conductivity and resistance. Or they can compare the behaviour of stable and unstable dispersions by shaking little bottles with particles in liquid. Only in the case of stable dispersions do the particles remain finely distributed and not settle quickly on the bottom. Stable dispersions are required for optimal print and coating results, as they prevent the individual particles from agglutinating. This is possible thanks to molecules that act as “spacers” attached to the particles via chemical ties.

The tailor-made particles are then worked into solutions and printed out on transparent sheets as liquid ink in standard and cost-effective mass production procedures. The result is thin, transparent and flexible structures with electronic properties that would never have been possible without nanotechnology.

End products include an illuminated display and sensors printed on flexible polymer sheets. A flexible solar cell is also on exhibit. It can be attached to bags or sun umbrellas for decentralised energy generation, and, in the future, used to charge the mobile phones and laptops.

Thin, light, flexible and inexpensive, in the near future printed electronics will grow to become a mass market and have a bearing on all parts of the economy.

For information on the Engineering of Advanced Materials Cluster of Excellence:

Information on the post-graduate programme:

Further information for the media:

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Peukert
Tel. 09131/85-29400

uni | media service | news No. 91/2011 of 1.04.11

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