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The EU-funded Clean4Yield project that targets contamination and defect control in roll-to-roll organic electronics production has been officially launched. Coordinated by Holst Centre/TNO, the three-year project brings together commercial and research partners from Europe and Israel to tackle one of the most pressing issues in organic electronics – ensuring high enough yields for cost-effective manufacturing. To this end, the partners will develop new technologies for inspecting, cleaning and repairing moving foils, and detecting and preventing defects in large-scale roll-to-roll production of OLEDs and OPVs.

High-volume roll-to-roll processes are key to making organic electronics such as OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes) and OPVs (organic photovoltaics) available at mass-market prices. Manufacturers will be looking for production yields above 95% to minimize the wastage of expensive production materials. However, organic electronic devices are made of layers of chemicals, each around 100-300 nanometers thick. At this scale, a single dust particle can make a connection between layers, causing the final device to malfunction.

Inspection, defect detection, cleaning and repair of moving foils

Meeting these yield requirements will require advanced contamination and defect control. Such issues are well-known in traditional silicon-based electronics. However the larger areas, and moving, flexible substrates of roll-to-roll processes mean existing techniques cannot be easily transferred. Hence the Clean4Yield project will work to develop new technologies capable of inspecting moving foils for micro- and nanoscale dust particles and defects, and for cleaning / repairing layers as necessary. It will also explore techniques for preventing dust particles reaching the foil in roll-to-roll environments.

“The EU recognized an urgent need for these technologies, and that developing them here will provide long-term opportunities for Europe’s instrumentation and equipment industries. Clean4Yield will deploy a holistic approach to address problems that are common to both OLEDs and OPVs, and which have relevance to other areas of flexible electronics,” said project coordinator Juliane Gabel of Holst Centre.

As consortium member IBS Precision Engineering is involved in supplying special air bearings for the transport of flat panel display glass and has ample experience in the application of these conveyors.