The University of Texas at Austin has licensed a time-saving technology for electronics manufacturing to Versatilis LLC of Shelburne, Vt.
The technology, a dual-tone photoresist that saves steps in the manufacturing process, was developed by Dr. Grant Willson, a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, and his students under a development agreement with Versatilis.
The license gives Versatilis exclusive, worldwide rights to the technology.
The technology aids a unique method of photolithography used in electronics. Versatilis originally developed the novel photolithography method under a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contract.
The underlying technology eliminates costly masking steps and problems encountered in attempting photolithography on flexible substrates. It uses multiple wavelengths of light to capture multiple patterns in photoresist layers simultaneously rather than through a repetitive, sequential process as is conventionally done.
The dual-tone photoresist developed by Willson's laboratory combines two photoresist layers into one that can capture such images, further saving steps in the overall process.
"We are delighted to have participated in this innovative development," Willson said. "The novel process not only has a broad range of applications, but it can also reduce the costs of photolithography in electronics."
Wei-Lun (Kane) Jen, a graduate student in the Department of Chemical Engineering, was instrumental in developing the technology.
Versatilis had developed the process over several years, working closely also with Professor Miltos Hatalis and his research group at Lehigh University.
Applications for the technology span several markets, but the original idea was to lower the cost of manufacturing high performing electronics on large area, flexible substrates. This is a field DARPA refers to as "macroelectronics," which could lead to applications such as phased array antennas that could be rolled up or folded for easy transportation, or unfurled in space or carried on high altitude aircraft.
More immediately, the company is involved in aiding the manufacturing of flexible displays and has several running projects with DARPA and Army Research Labs for enabling such displays for future soldiers.
"We believe this technology can save manufacturing steps and improve yields in a number of current display applications such as LCDs, but where it will really shine is in next generation OLED (organic light emitting diode) and flexible display manufacturing," said George Powch, Versatilis president and chief executive.
He said that the technology enables roll-to-roll manufacturing of flexible electronics.
Versatilis LLC is a five-year-old venture focused on developing semiconductor materials and processes for flexible electronics, solar cells and solid-state lighting panels.