New opportunities in electronics
The Arkema group is developing new applications in both microelectronics and organic electronics. Research work is being conducted in partnership with industry and CEA.
For many years the semiconductor industry has been able to double the performance levels of electronic components every 18 months. Today it is faced with the limits of optical lithography on silicon. Up to now this technology ensured the constant miniaturization of transistors. This is essential for improving the performance of microprocessors, reducing production costs and decreasing the energy consumption of electronic devices.
Resorting to nanostructuring
Given this situation, polymer self-assembly lithography (or nanostructuring) is a promising technological alternative. This is due to its low production costs and easy integration into existing production processes for microprocessors and electronic chips.
For more than 10 years the Arkema group has been developing a block copolymer technology. This has been used to create nanostructured materials for various applications. These nanomaterials exhibit a wide range of properties, including some which are particularly suited to self-assembly lithography.
The Arkema group’s expertise in DSA (direct self-assembly) for block copolymers is opening the door to new opportunities in the semiconductor industry. This innovative industrial solution might even make it possible to go beyond the limits of optical lithography and therefore to continue following Moore’s Law. The latter predicts that the number of transistors in microprocessors will double every two years.
Developing organic electronics
The use of organic materials, rather than silicon, may give rise to a new field of printable, transparent and flexible electronic components. These materials should lead to the emergence of new applications such as flexible screens, smart packaging and clothes, flexible and semi-transparent photovoltaic panels.
In the field of “large-area printed electronics”, innovation is focused on performance levels and the lifetime of the systems, production costs and the integration of several functions in the same item.
Thanks to the recent acquisition of a company called Piezotech, the Arkema group has expanded its range of high-performance materials made with electroactive block coplymers. These piezo or ferroelectric polymers (available in powder or film) have the ability to change shape when they are subjected to electrical voltage or, conversely, to convert a mechanical force into electrical energy.
Initially, the aim is to develop piezoelectric inks. These conductive polymer inks are printable on flexible materials such as tags. These smart tags are equipped with sensors and are able to provide useful information about a product or its storage conditions. Household objects, such as packaging, may soon be equipped with sensors (e.g. temperature, shock, humidity) and communication tools.
Partnership of Arkema with the French Atomic Energy and alternative Energies Commission (CEA)
The Arkema group established a partnership with CEA to create:
- a public-private research laboratory dedicated to the development of polymer materials for photovoltaic module technology (on the site of the Institut National de l’Énergie Solaire in Chambéry, France),
- a public-private laboratory dedicated to large-area printed electronics (with the Laboratoire d’Innovation pour les Technologies des Énergies Nouvelles et les nanomatériaux, part of CEA),
- a collaborative research platform dedicated to the development of lithography based on nanostructured polymers (with the Laboratoire d'électronique et de technologie de l'information, part of the CEA).