Analysis and Forecast of Nanomaterials for Electronics

According to a new market study, Nanomaterials for Solar Cells, Displays, Sensors, Lighting and RFID Market Analyses and Driving Forces, there is a myriad of applications using nanoparticles either on the market or under development. Considerable effort is being put into developing advanced defense applications for nanomaterials, which are unlikely to reach deployment for quite a few years to come but which could have a large impact on commercial applications. The scope and number of applications for nanoparticles continues to grow and companies are finding more and more uses for these materials.

The use of nanoparticles is set to escalate and the market has the potential to increase dramatically over the next ten years as more uses for these materials are developed and commercialized.

Nanomaterials are establishing themselves as a way forward for printed electronics in a number of ways. Inks using metallic nanoparticles promise higher conductivities and lower curing temperatures, nanosilicon inks may prove the best route to printed silicon, and carbon nanotube inks open up interesting new possibilities for ITO replacements, lighting and displays.

Nano materials will solve many of the business and technical challenges facing the electronics industry – particularly displays and semiconductors

Reproducibility and control are major areas of focus in the manufacture of revolutionary nanoelectronic materials

  • Manufacturing and purification processes for CNT and nano wires that offers high purity, control of properties, reliability and low cost
  • Designer molecules for self-assembly
  • Designer molecules and nano composites for packaging materials

Technology from other industries is being leveraged in the development of new or revolutionary materials

The value of materials will have much higher intellectual property content in the near future and the value of materials will increase in the next 5 years

The creation of new nanomaterials and their fabrication at the nanometer scale are the key technologies required for the development and applications of next generation miniaturized and versatile electronics and photonics devices.

We can define nanomaterials as those which have nanostructured components with at (less than 100nm).

  • Materials with one dimension in the nanoscale are layers, such as a thin films or surface coatings.
  • Materials that are nanoscale in two dimensions are nanowires and nanotubes.
  • Materials that are nanoscale in three dimensions are particles quantum dots (tiny particles of semiconductor materials). Nanocrystalline materials, made up of nanometer-sized grains, also fall into this category.

Two principal factors cause the properties of nanomaterials to differ significantly from other materials: increased relative surface area, and quantum effects. These factors can change or enhance properties such as reactivity, strength and electrical properties, and optical characteristics.

Nanomaterial in one dimension

One-dimensional nanomaterials, such as thin films and engineered surfaces, have been developed and used for decades in fields such as electronic device manufacture, chemistry and engineering. In the silicon integrated-circuit industry, for example, many devices rely on thin films for their operation, and control of film thicknesses approaching the atomic level is routine. Monolayers (layers that are one atom or molecule deep) are also routinely made and used in chemistry. The formation and properties of these layers are reasonably well understood from the atomic level upwards, even in quite complex layers (such as lubricants). Advances are being made in the control of the composition and smoothness of surfaces, and the growth of films.

Engineered surfaces with tailored properties such as large surface area or specific reactivity are used routinely in a range of applications such as in fuel cells and catalysts. The large surface area provided by nanoparticles, together with their ability to self assemble on a support surface, could be of use in all of these applications.

Although they represent incremental developments, surfaces with enhanced properties should find applications throughout the chemicals and energy sectors. The benefits could surpass the obvious economic and resource savings achieved by higher activity and greater selectivity in reactors and separation processes, to enabling small-scale distributed processing (making chemicals as close as possible to the point of use). There is already a move in the chemical industry towards this. Another use could be the small-scale, on-site production of high value chemicals such as pharmaceuticals.

Nanomaterials in two dimensions

Two dimensional nanomaterials such as tubes and wires have generated considerable interest among the scientific community in recent years. In particular, their novel electrical and mechanical properties are the subject of intense research.

a) Carbon Nanotubes

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) were first observed in 1991. CNTs are extended tubes of rolled graphene sheets. There are two types of CNT: single-walled (one tube) or multi-walled (several concentric tubes). Both of these are typically a few nanometers in diameter and several micrometers to centimeters long. CNTs have assumed an important role in the context of nanomaterials, because of their novel chemical and physical properties. They are mechanically very strong (their Young’s modulus is over 1 terapascal, making CNTs as stiff as diamond), flexible (about their axis), and can conduct electricity extremely well (the helicity of the graphene sheet determines whether the CNT is a semiconductor or metallic). All of these remarkable properties give CNTs a range of potential applications: for example, in reinforced composites, sensors, nanoelectronics and display devices.

b) Inorganic Nanotubes

Inorganic nanotubes and inorganic fullerene-like materials based on layered compounds such as molybdenum disulphide were discovered shortly after CNTs. They have excellent tribological (lubricating) properties, resistance to shockwave impact, catalytic reactivity, and high capacity for hydrogen and lithium storage, which suggest a range of promising applications. Oxide-based nanotubes (such as titanium dioxide) are being explored for their applications in catalysis, photo-catalysis and energy storage.

c) Nanowires

Nanowires are ultrafine wires or linear arrays of dots, formed by self-assembly. They can be made from a wide range of materials. Semiconductor nanowires made of silicon, gallium nitride and indium phosphide have demonstrated remarkable optical, electronic and magnetic characteristics (for example, silica nanowires can bend light around very tight corners). Nanowires have potential applications in high-density data storage, either as magnetic read heads or as patterned storage media, and electronic and opto-electronic nanodevices, for metallic interconnects of quantum devices and nanodevices. The preparation of these nanowires relies on sophisticated growth techniques, which include selfassembly processes, where atoms arrange themselves naturally on stepped surfaces, chemical vapor deposition (CVD) onto patterned substrates, electroplating or molecular beam epitaxy (MBE). The ‘molecular beams’ are typically from thermally evaporated elemental sources.

d) Biopolymers

The variability and site recognition of biopolymers, such as DNA molecules, offer a wide range of opportunities for the self-organization of wire nanostructures into much more complex patterns. The DNA backbones may then, for example, be coated in metal. They also offer opportunities to link nano- and biotechnology in, for example, biocompatible sensors and small, simple motors. Such self-assembly of organic backbone nanostructures is often controlled by weak interactions, such as hydrogen bonds, hydrophobic, or van der Waals interactions (generally in aqueous environments) and hence requires quite different synthesis strategies to CNTs, for example. The combination of one-dimensional nanostructures consisting of biopolymers and inorganic compounds opens up a number of scientific and technological opportunities.

Nanoscale in three dimensions

a) Nanoparticles

Nanoparticles are often defined as particles of less than 100nm in diameter. We classify nanoparticles to be particles less than 100nm in diameter that exhibit new or enhanced size-dependent properties compared with larger particles of the same material. Nanoparticles exist widely in the natural world: for example as the products of photochemical and volcanic activity, and created by plants and algae. They have also been created for thousands of years as products of combustion and food cooking, and more recently from vehicle exhausts. Deliberately manufactured nanoparticles, such as metal oxides, are by comparison in the minority.

Nanoparticles are of interest because of the new properties (such as chemical reactivity and optical behavior) that they exhibit compared with larger particles of the same materials. For example, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide become transparent at the nanoscale, however are able to absorb and reflect UV light, and have found application in sunscreens. Nanoparticles have a range of potential applications: in the short-term in new cosmetics, textiles and paints; in the longer term, in methods of targeted drug delivery where they could be to used deliver drugs to a specific site in the body. Nanoparticles can also be arranged into layers on surfaces, providing a large surface area and hence enhanced activity, relevant to a range of potential applications such as catalysts.

Manufactured nanoparticles are typically not products in their own right, but generally serve as raw materials, ingredients or additives in existing products. Nanoparticles are currently in a small number of consumer products such as cosmetics and their enhanced or novel properties may have implications for their toxicity. For most applications, nanoparticles will be fixed (for example, attached to a surface or within in a composite) although in others they will be free or suspended in fluid. Whether they are fixed or free will have a significant affect on their potential health, safety and environmental impacts.

b) Fullerenes (carbon 60)

In the mid-1980s a new class of carbon material was discovered called carbon 60 (C60). The experimental chemists who discovered C60 named it “buckminsterfullerene”, in recognition of the architect Buckminster Fuller, who was well-known for building geodesic domes, and the term fullerenes was then given to any closed carbon cage. C60 are spherical molecules about 1nm in diameter, comprising 60 carbon atoms arranged as 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons: the configuration of a football. In 1990, a technique to produce larger quantities of C60 was developed by resistively heating graphite rods in a helium atmosphere. Several applications are envisaged for fullerenes, such as miniature ‘ball bearings’ to lubricate surfaces, drug delivery vehicles and in electronic circuits.

c) Dendrimers

Dendrimers are spherical polymeric molecules, formed through a nanoscale hierarchical self-assembly process. There are many types of dendrimer; the smallest is several nanometers in size. Dendrimers are used in conventional applications such as coatings and inks, but they also have a range of interesting properties which could lead to useful applications. For example, dendrimers can act as nanoscale carrier molecules and as such could be used in drug delivery. Environmental clean-up could be assisted by dendrimers as they can trap metal ions, which could then be filtered out of water with ultra-filtration techniques.

d) Quantum Dots

Nanoparticles of semiconductors (quantum dots) were theorized in the 1970s and initially created in the early 1980s. If semiconductor particles are made small enough, quantum effects come into play, which limit the energies at which electrons and holes (the absence of an electron) can exist in the particles. As energy is related to wavelength (or color), this means that the optical properties of the particle can be finely tuned depending on its size. Thus, particles can be made to emit or absorb specific wavelengths (colors) of light, merely by controlling their size. Recently, quantum dots have found applications in composites, solar cells (Gratzel cells) and fluorescent biological labels (for example to trace a biological molecule) which use both the small particle size and tunable energy levels. Recent advances in chemistry have resulted in the preparation of monolayer-protected, high-quality, monodispersed, crystalline quantum dots as small as 2nm in diameter, which can be conveniently treated and processed as a typical chemical reagent.

Eventually, nanomaterials are likely to affect nearly every industry in every region in the world, including the least developed regions. In fact, there is considerable optimism that nanomaterials will be instrumental in addressing some of the developing world’s most pressing concerns. Forecasts are presented to 2015.

Analysis and Forecast of Nanomaterials for Electronics

Details of the new report, table of contents and ordering information can be found on Electronics.ca Publications’ web siteNanomaterials for Solar Cells, Displays, Sensors, Lighting and RFID Market Analyses and Driving Forces.

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