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2009/01/15 03:00 KST
Scientists develop large film of nanomaterial to make flexible electronic devices

   By Lee Joon-seung
SEOUL, Jan. 15 (Yonhap) -- South Korean scientists on Thursday unveiled a manufacturing process for large-scale, nanomaterial films that can herald the production of flexible electronic devices.

   The Sungkyunkwan University-Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) team, led by Sungkyunkwan chemistry Professor Hong Byung-hee, said graphene film with a diameter of 10 cm has been created by adopting a conventional chemical vapor deposition (CVD) technique.

   Graphene is a one-atom-thick, honeycomb-like nano material structure that can handle 100 times more electric current than copper and transfer electrons 100 times faster than monocrystalline silicon, used in conventional semiconductors.

   The wafer-scale graphene is expected to be used in flexible displays, wearable computers and advanced transistors and electrodes. It can also replace indium tin oxide, used extensively in the production of touch-screen panels and solar cells.

   Meanwhile, the team's development of the world's first circuit patterning technology for the graphene film has the potential to replace silicon-based semiconductors, which have limited growth potential because of their limits in integration and data processing speed.

   Hong said the manufacturing process developed by the team has effectively overcome the limitations of graphene, which in the past could not be made large enough for commercial application.

   "The CVD technique calls for heating a mixture of methane, hydrogen and argon gases to 1,000 C and using it to attach carbon atoms to a 300 nanometer-thick, flat nickel catalyst," the scientist said.

   He said that depending on the size of the flat catalyst, the graphene film could be made larger.

   "Tests showed the good qualities of the graphene were not seriously affected even after the film was stretched and bent to a considerable degree," the scientist said.

   SAIT, meanwhile, said that the breakthrough could allow the country to make a grab for the global electrode market, which is critical in making displays. The market was estimated to be worth 7.7 trillion won (US$57.3 billion) last year and may grow to 22 trillion won by 2018.

   It said more work could allow South Korea to maximize its strengths in displays and semiconductors.

   Samsung Electronics Co., the world's largest manufacturer of memory chips and displays, plans to work with the university to develop next-generation ultra high-speed nano memory chips, transparent flexible displays and solar cells.