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Breaking new ground in nanomaterials

Canatu is in the business of creating advanced carbon nanomaterial- based thin film components for the needs of the electronics industry. Its novel NanoBuds™ carbon nanomaterial and unique capability to produce and directly deposit conductive networks on any surface using dry deposition is breaking new ground.

Thin film electronics is one of the world’s fastest-growing business areas, driven by developments in areas such as e-paper, solar energy, displays, and touch panels, as well as the inherent benefits of the technology itself. As thin film markets mature, there will be increasing pressure to make the processes used in the field more cost- and materials-efficient.

Canatu’s patent-pending innovations cover NanoBuds™, new production methods for synthesising nanotubes and NanoBuds™, and new component manufacturing methods for high-aspect-ratio molecular structures and nanotube- and NanoBud™- based electrical and optical components.

ITO (indium tin oxide) and other metal oxides have long dominated the electronics market for transparent and conductive thin film coatings. The brittle nature of metal oxides limits their use in printing and other modern manufacturing technologies, however. ITO costs are also dependent on fluctuations in demand for indium, a scarce by-product of zinc refining.

Cutting out the steps in between

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and other carbon nanoparticles have been seen as prime candidates for replacing ITO, due to their environmentally sound organic nature, low material costs, and exceptional electronic, optical, and mechanical properties. The major factor holding back the full-scale commercial use of CNT-based thin films, however, has been the long and labour-intensive batch process normally needed to produce them, which calls for numerous complex purifying and functionalising steps.

Canatu’s proprietary low-cost direct deposition technology makes these process steps obsolete and promises to transform carbon nanomaterial-based thin films into a truly viable option.

The company’s direct deposition technology produces fully functional, patterned coatings directly onto PET, glass, or almost any substrate straight from the synthesis reactor without a liquid phase. Not only is the manufacturing process reliable, continuous, and energyefficient, it is also a very scalable and environmentally sound method for producing functional components for electronics needs.

Canatu’s initial product development interests lie in areas such as:

  • transparent conducting thin films for transparent electrodes (ITO replacement)
  • electrostatic dissipation and electromagnetic shielding
  • field-emitting surfaces for displays and lighting
  • saturable absorbers for pulsed lasers, optical signal regenerators, and waveshapers, and
  • thin film transistors and sensors.

Laboratory-scale production facilities for patterned and homogeneous thin films based on nanotube and Canatu’s own NanoBuds™ materials are already in place, and work on scaling up the first specialty applications for thin film devices is under way.

> David Brown
(Published in HighTech Finland 2009)