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Invisible Transistors
A novel method could lead to see-through displays for windshields

Source: “High-Performance Transparent Inorganic-Organic Hybrid Thin-Film N-Type Transistors”
Lian Wang et al.
Nature Materials 5(11): 893-900

Results: Northwestern University researchers have fabricated high-­performance, transparent thin-film transistors (TFTs) using a low-cost, low-temperature method. They use indium oxide as both a semiconductor and a conductor, combining the inorganic material with organic insulators on top of a transparent substrate. The resulting transistors perform nearly as well as the much more expensive polysilicon transistors used to control pixels in high-end TVs and computer monitors.

Why it matters: The new TFTs could replace the opaque transistors used to control pixels in digital displays. Because the low-temperature method can deposit transistors on flexible plastics, it could lead to see-through displays affixed to curved surfaces such as windshields and helmet visors. The method is also cheap enough, and easy enough to adapt for large-scale manufacturing, that it could make such displays affordable.

Methods: On glass that’s been coated with a transparent electrode, the researchers deposit the organic insulating materials, which form a multilayered lattice. To deposit the indium oxide, the researchers use a standard technique called ion-assisted deposition, in which an ion beam controls the crystallization and adhesion of the oxide. Changing the oxygen pressure during the process varies the conductivity of the indium oxide, which can thus be used as a semiconductor in one part of the device and as a conductor in other parts.

Next Steps: Negotiations for licensing the technology have begun. Prototype displays could be ready within 18 months. The researchers hope to improve the performance of the transistors so that they could serve as processors or memory cells.

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Credit: GKSS Research Center

Tagged: Computing, Materials

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