Silicon has long been king of the semiconductor industry. It also provides the basis for products such as computer chips and solar panels.
Now, a whole host of different materials is revolutionizing the electronics industry and is allowing new efficiencies in their manufacture, in addition to changing the characteristics of the final product.
Silicon-based electronics require a laborious method of etching away, one chip at a time. New methods use plastic films onto which components are pressed into place with rollers – akin to a printing press.
A fundamental understanding of the materials involved is crucial to the development of printed electronics, including the physics of heat transfer, fluidity and evaporation.
All these properties can affect how materials adhere when pressed, says Ying Sun, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Binghamton University.
For example, Sun studies how nanosilver ink gets deposited onto plastic films. She likens the ink to coffee – it’s a suspension, not a true solution. So if evaporation occurs, “We don’t want a coffee ring. We want to have uniform deposition.”
Currently, Sun is focusing on solar-cell-related applications. She believes that by understanding physical phenomena, her work can help optimize printed electronics and advance the state of the art.
By making the manufacture of electronics more efficient, companies will save time, money, and materials. Consumers and society can benefit as well, given less expensive products made with less environmental impact.
The National Science Foundation has recognized Sun’s research promise by awarding her a five-year, $400,000 early career development grant.
Sun’s research also depends the Center for Advanced Microelectronics Manufacturing (CAMM) at Binghamton, part of the Small Scale Systems Integration and Packaging Center (S3IP) – one of New York State’s Centers for Excellence.
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