In the late 1970s, three researchers published a groundbreaking paper on the discovery that certain classes of plastics were capable of being modified to enable them to function as a poorly conducting metal. So groundbreaking and significant was the discovery that in 2000 the Nobel Prize for chemistry was awarded to Alan Heeger (Professor of Physics, University of California), Alan MacDiarmid, and Hideki Shirakawa for their pioneering work on conductive polymers.
In the late 1980s, Richard Friend, Jeremy Burroughes and Donal Bradley discovered that certain classes of conducting polymers could be coaxed into emitting light, so laying the foundations for a new generation of flat panel displays. In 2003, Richard Friend (Professor of Physics at Cambridge University) was knighted for his services to physics.
Both Heeger and Friend have played key roles in the science behind polymer based organic semiconductors. Both researchers have been active in commercializing the technology discovered in their laboratories. Heeger founded Uniax (displays) in 1990 and sold it to DuPont in 1999. He now sits on the boards of two companies: QTL BioSystems (sensors) and Konarka Technologies (solar cells). Friend co-founded Cambridge Display Technology (displays) in 1992, which was also sold in 1999 to Kelso & Co and Hillman Capital. He now sits on the board of Plastic Logic (electronics) - yet another spin-out company from his laboratory. In December 2004, Cambridge Display Technology IPO'ed on NASDAQ.
[...] It is being built by start-up companies such as Cambridge Displays Technology, Universal Displays, eMagin, Micro Emissive Displays, Konarka Technologies, Nanosolar, Plextronics, Nanoident, Novaled, Thin-film Electronics, Elam-T, PolyIC, Polymer Vision, Plastic Logic, OrganicID, ORFID, and others who are defining the materials, initial design rules and manufacturing techniques necessary for making light-emitting, transistors, simple logic gates, memory cells, photovoltaic and sensors from organic semiconductors. PolyIC is a joint venture between Siemens and Kurz, Polymer Vision is part of the technology incubator unit within Philips. OrganicID and ORFID are both early stage university spin-outs from University of Texas and University of California respectively. Nanoident, based in Austria, has been formed to develop photonic sensor technology based on organic semiconductors. It has already produced its demo - a 50x50 pixel sensor. Patenting activity is increasing Innovation within the organic semiconductor industry is gathering pace. [...]
[...] Then, in February 2005, Merck acquired both Covion and the Electronic Materials group from Avecia paying million cash for about 100 people. In June 2005, Sumitomo Chemical acquired the Lumination business unit from Dow for an undisclosed sum. Lumation was responsible for developing polyfluorene light emitting polymers which are used in OLED devices to manufacture flat panel displays. In June 2005, Sumitomo and Cambridge Display Technology formed a joint venture to manufacture market and sell light emitting polymers. Then, in August 2005, OTB Displays acquired the Philips PolyLED business including the production facility at Heerlen in the Netherlands. [...]
[...] Organic semiconductor technology has evolved to the point where not only is it now technically feasible to manufacture beautiful displays, as demonstrated by companies such as Cambridge Display Technology, Kodak, Philips and others, but it is now possible to build solar cells, electronic circuits, bio-sensors, memory and lighting. Essentially, we are beginning to see a new industry emerging for 'organic electronics'. Structure of the industry To understand how the organic semiconductor industry is structured, it is best to think about it as existing in three distinct layers of varying complexity and integration. Each layer relies on many, and in some cases all, of the individual components in the layer above. [...]
[...] Other recipients of DoE funding include Universal Display and Osram Opto- Semiconductors. Government funding of solid-state lighting is about to increase dramatically. In August 2005, the US Government passed its energy bill which includes a commitment to allocate up to $50m per annum to solid- state lighting over the next three to five years, with an option for more to follow. European funding In early March 2004, the EU funded program PolyApply was officially announced. The EU allocated million and a further million came from the 20 participating companies and research institutes. [...]
[...] IPOs while the appetite for more investment in organic semiconductor technology will continue for many years to come, it is reassuring for investors to know that exit routes do exist. In December 2004, Cambridge Display Technology IPO'ed on NASDAQ and in October 2004 Micro emissive Displays IPO'ed on AIM (Alternate Investment Market). Between them the two companies raised around $60 million Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures There have been a number of acquisitions in the industry. In June 2004, Konarka acquired the organic photovoltaic project from Siemens for an undisclosed sum. Merck acquired the Schott OLED R & D project in December 2004 for an undisclosed sum. [...]
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