Nanoprinting Mimics Moth’s Eye For Improved Optical Components

Singapore researchers say they have successfully developed a nanoprinting technology that reduces glare for polycarbonate components used in TV displays, windows, and even solar cells. As a result, TV viewers can have wider viewing angles with less glare and organic solar cells can have larger areas for

Scanning electron microscope (SEM) image shows the engineered anti-reflective nanostructures that mimic structures found in a moth’s eye.

light absorption.

Researchers from A*STAR’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) and their commercial partners say the new material reflects just 0.09 – 0.2% of the visible light hitting its surface. This matches or betters existing anti-reflective and anti-glare plastics in the market, which typically have reported reflectivity of around 1% of visible light.

“The new plastic was made possible because of the unique nanoimprint expertise that we have developed at IMRE,” said Dr Low Hong Yee, the senior scientist who is leading the research. Several companies are in the process of licensing the anti-reflective nanostructure technology from Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd, the technology transfer arm of A*STAR. “We are also developing complementary research that allows the technology to be easily ramped-up to an industrial scale,” explained Dr. Low.

That complementary research includes development of roll-to-roll manufacturing technology to allow high throughput production. Roll-to-roll would allow the material to be insert molded on structural plastics.

This plastic material is the first successful result of the IMRE-led Industrial Consortium On Nanoimprint (ICON), which partners local and overseas companies to promote the manufacturing of nanoimprint technology. Nanoimprinting relies on engineering the physical aspects of the plastics rather than using chemicals to change the properties of the plastic. The technology has allowed researchers to create unique, complex hierarchical “moth eye-like” anti-reflective structures where nanometer-sized structures are placed on top of other microstructures – different from how other similar plastics are made. This formed special patterns that are better at reducing glare and reflection and provides wider viewing angles than the current available plastics.

“This is an exciting innovation – mimicking nature through the nanoimprint technology to solve real world problems. I am very pleased that the collaboration with industry has helped move this R&D from the laboratory to application in the industry,” said Prof Andy Hor, IMRE’s Executive Director.  

“The outstanding results from this consortium work will benefit our company’s expansion into new markets such as in the touchscreen panel and solar business sectors,” said Wilson Kim Woo Yong, director, Global Marketing from Young Chang Chemical Co. Other commercial partners include Innox Co. Ltd. and theAdvanced Products Business of NTT-AT.

Nanoimprint technology evolved from a lithography technology for the semiconductor industry to a platform process technology that can be adapted to a wide range of applications.

The first project in ICON on the topic on anti-reflection was launched in August 2010 in collaboration with A*STAR’s Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC), DSO National Laboratories, Innox Co., Ltd., Solves Innovative Technology Pte Ltd, NTT- Advanced Technology Corporation, Nypro, Inc., and Young Chang Chemical Co.

About Doug Smock

Former Chief Editor at Plastics World and Senior Technical Editor Design News

Alternative energy, Asia, Design, Electronics, Green, Polycarbonate ,

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