5.54m project set to stamp UK expertise on manufacturing innovation

An ambitious University of Glasgow-led research project which aims to develop new manufacturing techniques for advanced materials and devices has received more than 5m in funding support.

The ‘Hetero-print’ project brings together chemists, physicists, materials scientists and engineers from the Universities of Cambridge, Glasgow, Manchester, Sheffield and Strathclyde.

Over the next five years, they will use a 5.54m Programme Grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to develop a range of new techniques and applications for printing of devices on the micro and nanoscales.

EPSRC’s Programme Grants provide funding to world-leading research groups to address significant major research challenges.

The Hetero-print team will work to extend the existing capabilities of micro and nanoscale transfer printing, a technique which allows the manufacture of high-quality, high-performance electronic devices. In recent years, it has enabled the development of complex technology such as flexible displays made from micro-LEDs.

Currently, transfer printing uses a high-precision mechanical pick-and-place assembly technique which exploits the adhesive properties of soft polymer stamps. The Hetero-print team will investigate for the first time the potential of transfer printing to create highly integrated systems made from both organic and inorganic materials, as well as smart active stamp technologies, which could bring new capabilities to the manufacture of electronic, photonic and other micro-systems. This approach has been identified as a major new direction for electronics manufacturing.

Professor Peter Skabara, Ramsay Chair of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow, is the project’s principal investigator.

Prof Skabara said: “We’re very pleased and proud to have the support of EPSRC through their Programme Grant initiative for the Hetero-print project. The technology we’re building upon is rooted in semiconductor industry techniques, and we will work on many exciting new applications in the fields of flexible electronics, new forms of displays, silicon photonics, photonic integrated circuits, sensors for medicine and healthcare, novel quantum-based sensors, smart labels, e-skins/robotics and photovoltaics.

“The team we’ve assembled blends expertise in electronics, physics, materials science and sensing, with a great deal of potential for researchers to work together in new ways, with polymer, synthetic and surface chemistry at its heart.

“The manufacturing method will allow us to marry the unique properties of a broad range of functional materials and devices including electronic circuits, lasers, detectors, solar cells, and batteries all into a single electronics platform. Success in our project will lead to a new generation of electronic components and products such as quantum computers, advanced robotics, medical diagnostic equipment, and distributed environmental sensors to name just a few. We’re also very keen that the project is used to enrich postgraduate and undergraduate education, with opportunities for students across a wide range of disciplines to benefit from proximity to the project.

“Ultimately, we’re aiming to help make the UK a centre of excellence in advanced manufacturing, with associated benefits for the UK’s economy, and we’re very much looking forward to starting our work together.”

Work on the Hetero-print project is due to begin in early June 2018. The Programme Grant-supported research will run until 2023.