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UK-based collaboration works to develop graphene ultra-barrier materials

The Centre of Process Innovation (CPI) recently announced it was part of a UK-based collaboration with University of Cambridge, FlexEnable Ltd., and the National Physical Laboratory. The goal of the partnership was to develop ultra-barrier materials using graphene, to create flexible, transparent electronic-based plastic displays for smartphones, tablets, and wearable electronics. Manufacturers of these products require barriers with a greater degree of flexibility, which graphene can likely provide.

FlexEnable, the lead business partner, saw many uses for the graphene ultra-barrier materials.

Graphene-based barrier coatings and films could be used for flexible OLED lighting and LED encapsulants as well as display products, on a widespread commercial basis.

Using graphene interlayers, displays can be made very flexibly. The barrier materials will be transparent, robust, and impervious to various molecules that could cause damage. This represents a great increase in potential for the technology in various applications and industries, which use barrier coatings and films but require a greater degree of flexibility and strength.

At the time the collaboration was announced, James Johnstone, Business Development Manager at CPI, said, “The collaboration brings together world class supply chain expertise across the UK to bridge the gap from Graphene research to the manufacturing of commercial flexible display screens. The Hofmann group at the Department of Engineering in Cambridge is a key innovator in the growth and processing of graphene films. NPL are experts in the traceable measurement of water transfer characteristics and FlexEnable brings an industrial focus to the project with their extensive expertise in the manufacture of flexible electronics and flexible display screens in particular. CPI’s role in the project is to use roll-to-roll atomic layer deposition technologies to scale up, test and fabricate the ultra barrier materials.”

Also at the time the collaboration was announced, Chuck Milligan, CEO of FlexEnable added, “Graphene and other 2D materials are extremely relevant for the flexible electronics industry, with the potential for broad usage from conductors to semiconductors, insulators and even barriers. Building on FlexEnable’s previous leading-edge work with graphene, our involvement will enable the accelerated integration of these game-changing materials in a new generation of ultra-flexible end-user applications with innovative form factors.”

The partnership is hoping to bring their barrier coatings and materials onto the market for commercial use as soon as possible.