ISSCC 2011: Watch Organic Circuits Print on Plastic

French engineers show technique for cranking out cheaper large-area organic circuits

1 min read

Want a plastic circuit? Soon, engineers might just press print.

That was the promise of a presentation given last week at the 2011 International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC). Anis Daami, an engineer at the French technology research organization CEA-LITEN located in Grenoble, detailed the performance of a menagerie of elementary organic digital and analog circuits--inverters, ring oscillators, current mirrors, and differential pairs. These simple organic circuits themselves were not the impressive part. What caught the crowd's attention was their simple birth--fully printed on plastic substrates.

"The most important challenge for organic technologies," Daami says, "is to have low cost processes that can be scalable to large areas." Printing big organic circuits could allow cheaper versions of some big electronics, such as large-area sensors

Daami's team started with a 10-centimeter-squared gold-plated piece of plastic (polyethylene-naphtalate), which was 125-micrometers thick. After using laser ablation to remove all of the gold except what was needed for a level of electrodes and interconnects, they screen-printed semiconductors on the foil and heated it all to 100 degrees Celsius. Then they screen-printed a dielectric polymer and heated the assembly again. Finally, they printed another level of interconnects using a silver ink before giving the chip one last 100-degree Celsius toasting. The video above shows the screen-printing technique on a 320 by 380 squared millimeter substrate, what Daami says was a test to check the capability of printing a silver paste.

Though Kris Myny of Imec notes that his plastic processor required a more advanced organic circuit than those created using this technique, he said that Daami's work was impressive and seemed an important step towards making organic devices much cheaper.

Video: Anis Daami, CEA-LITEN

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The First Million-Transistor Chip: the Engineers’ Story

Intel’s i860 RISC chip was a graphics powerhouse

21 min read
Twenty people crowd into a cubicle, the man in the center seated holding a silicon wafer full of chips

Intel's million-transistor chip development team

In San Francisco on Feb. 27, 1989, Intel Corp., Santa Clara, Calif., startled the world of high technology by presenting the first ever 1-million-transistor microprocessor, which was also the company’s first such chip to use a reduced instruction set.

The number of transistors alone marks a huge leap upward: Intel’s previous microprocessor, the 80386, has only 275,000 of them. But this long-deferred move into the booming market in reduced-instruction-set computing (RISC) was more of a shock, in part because it broke with Intel’s tradition of compatibility with earlier processors—and not least because after three well-guarded years in development the chip came as a complete surprise. Now designated the i860, it entered development in 1986 about the same time as the 80486, the yet-to-be-introduced successor to Intel’s highly regarded 80286 and 80386. The two chips have about the same area and use the same 1-micrometer CMOS technology then under development at the company’s systems production and manufacturing plant in Hillsboro, Ore. But with the i860, then code-named the N10, the company planned a revolution.

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