If the European manufacturing economy is going to capitalise on the growing market for flexible electronics, a solution to the problem of defects is an urgent one.
New technology, such as flexible solar modules and digital displays, are vulnerable to the everyday elements of our environment, and the coating used to protect them is less effective the more defects it contains.
The defects, which can take the form of contamination by fine dust particles or pin holes, are up to one hundred-thousand times finer than a human hair and allow gas to squeeze through, damaging the efficiency and lifespan of the device underneath.
The scientists addressing this problem, as a part of the NanoMend project, are developing defect imaging, detection and correction technologies that will be designed for use in the high-speed manufacturing of these new products.
Holly Peacock, dissemination manager for NanoMend, said “By developing a barrier that enhances the resilience of plastic electronics to weather, The Centre for Process Innovation who form part of the UK High-Value Manufacturing Catapult, will play a key role in transforming this technology into real world applications”
Professor Liam Blunt from the University of Huddersfield, NanoMend’s project co-ordinator, said “The key challenge facing the project is overcoming the conflict between speed and resolution, so that it is simultaneously possible to identify defects down to the nano-scale without slowing down the productivity. Achieving this will involve integrating defect detection, cleaning and repair technologies into fast paced, continuous manufacturing lines.”
NanoMend will establish two working pilot lines. One will be developed for the manufacturing lines of polymer coated paper packaging at Stora Enso, in order to extend the shelf life of drinks in cartons, using less material. This will have the two fold environmental benefits of using fewer resources, and reducing the volume of food that needs to thrown away.
The other will be for the manufacturing lines of leading Swiss manufacturer of flexible solar modules, Flisom, where it will be used to detect and correct defects within the various layers that constitute a solar module, in order to increase its efficiency, lifespan and consequently its economic viability for the consumer.
A mix of industrial and academic partners from across Europe have been working on the four year NanoMend since it begun, in January of 2012.
For more information about this project, visit www.nanomend.eu
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