Production Project Includes Solar Power Cells

GE Global Research, the centralized research organization of General Electric, and Energy Conversion Devices (ECD Ovonics) have been awarded a grant from the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) of the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop a low-cost, roll-to-roll process for the production of large-area organic electronic devices. ATP based its selection on the innovation, technical risk, potential economic benefits to the nation, and strength of the commercialization plan of the program. This project breaks new ground in the development of large, thin and flexible electronics systems.

Niskayuna, New York – September 26, 2003 [] The cost of the US$13 million, four-year project will be shared among NIST, GE and ECD Ovonics. The program goal is to create a cost-effective system for the mass production of products such as flexible electronic paper displays, portable TV screens the size of posters, embedded sensors, high-efficiency lighting devices, and solar powered cells. The proposed roll-to-roll research prototype line will input a roll of plastic film and output working organic electronic devices. GE will design and provide the organic electronic technology, while ECD Ovonics will provide its roll-to-roll equipment-building expertise. The key is to form the active organic layers using low-cost printing techniques such as gravure or screen-printing. If successful, the program will demonstrate that organic electronic devices can be made on flexible material in a continuous roll-to-roll process without the huge capital investment normally required for batch-processed inorganic semiconductor technology. This will be the first attempt to create roll-to-roll manufacturing equipment specifically designed for the unique requirements of organic electronic device fabrication. To date, the two major technology challenges that scientists face are: ensuring that roll-to-roll processing is compatible with the materials and device designs, and integrating all of the fabrication steps into one line. “The NIST funding ensures a long-term commitment to this high-risk, high-reward project and permits developing materials, techniques and equipment that have broader applications,” said Anil Duggal, manager of GE’s light energy conversion program. “Although GE and ECD Ovonics will have to overcome some significant technological challenges, we are excited about the tremendous impact this program could have on establishing new, low-cost industries and an energy-efficient future for the United States.” The project will require expertise in organic electronic device physics and fabrication, as well as equipment design and roll-to-roll processing. Experts agree that organic electronic devices will undoubtedly tap a new market, involving applications that can be produced in large quantities over large areas and at a low price. The carbon-based materials combine efficient semi conducting properties with mechanical properties that permit flexible, lightweight applications. Consequently, organic electronics will enable scientists to create products that were never before thought possible. “The combination of mechanically flexible sheets of plastic with our unique Ovonic thin-film, continuous web roll-to-roll manufacturing technique will affect a broad range of organic electronic devices ranging from lighting to solar cells to displays,” said Stanford R. Ovshinsky, president and CEO of ECD Ovonics. “This program could place the United States in a leadership position in creating a more cost-effective and energy-efficient future.” ECD Ovonics’ current portfolio of alternative energy solutions include thin-film amorphous solar cells, modules, panels and systems for generating solar electric power; NiMH batteries; hydride storage materials capable of storing hydrogen in the solid state for use as a feedstock for fuel cells or internal combustion engines or as an enhancement or replacement for any type of hydrocarbon fuel; and fuel cells.
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