Digital electronic devices from wearable Health Tech to flat panel displays used for laptops and televisions require transparent conductors. These make it possible to create displays and touch screens, among other essential components. Now we want these devices to be lighter, thinner, flexible, and less expensive. The traditional transparent conductive layer has been indium tin oxide (ITO), but this has some serious shortcomings. The supply chain for indium is not stable, and the material has been subject to wild cost fluctuations in the past. Also, it is a brittle material that does not survive bending well.
Two companies with transparent conductor products have joined forces to create a material that is even better in combination. Cambrios Technologies Corporation makes materials based on silver nanowire technology. The metallic silver wires have excellent conductivity and flexibility. Heraeus is a company that makes a Clevios PEDOT:PSS, a conductive polymer designed for roll-to-roll processing to create thin film conductive layers that are flexible and transparent. By combining their technologies, the companies have created a single-layer solution that can be applied using simple coating and printing processes, instead of the expensive and slower vacuum deposition approach. And the result is a more durable and flexible layer that has higher conductivity.
This new conductive ink is suitable for high volume manufacturing, and could find a place as a replacement for ITO in everything from LCD displays to OLED lighting panels, from solar cells to wearable devices.