What do solar cells and displays have in common?
Both are optoelectronic devices: solar cells convert photons into electrons that we can use while displays convert electrons into photons that we can see.
Both types of devices require a transparent conductor so that photons and electrons can both reach their destinations efficiently. The primary material used for this application is indium tin oxide (ITO). Demand is growing at more than 17% CAGR and is projected to reach nearly 6B USD in 2020.
In spite of its dominance, ITO is neither a great conductor nor as transparent as would be ideal and is very brittle, as anyone who has dropped a cell phone and cracked the glass can attest.
One promising alternate solution is to replace ITO with a fine mesh of electrodes. If submicron-width lines are used, the mesh would be completely transparent to the photons while still being an excellent conductor of electrons.
Standard semiconductor photolithography techniques can easily achieve these specifications, but are too expensive and wasteful for these applications. A low-cost, rapid technique is needed.
XTPL has patented a viscous ink and printing method that have been used to demonstrate reproducible printing of highly conductive submicron lines on a laboratory scale.
Scale-up to larger areas is required, but XTPL has already gained the interest of major players such as Dupont, Fraunhofer, and Trinasolar.