UCSD Awards R&D Contract to General Atomics to Measure Water Vapor Permeation Through Plastic Substrates


Oct 21, 2003

Accurate detection capability is needed to enable flexible display industry

SAN JOSE, California - October 21, 2003 - The U.S. Display Consortium (USDC), a public/private partnership chartered with developing the flat panel display (FPD) industry supply chain, today announced a $439,000 R&D project with General Atomics Corp. of San Diego, Calif. The project's objective is for General Atomics to develop the hardware, process and follow-on service capability to measure permeation rates of water vapor through plastic substrates. This technical capability must be established in order for the display industry to manufacture reliable display devices - that are based on environmentally sensitive, light emitting materials - on flexible, plastic substrates.

Substrates are the base layer for fabrication of any electronic flat panel display and typically are made from ultra-thin glass (currently 0.7mm or less). The use of a plastic material will enable new markets where lighter-weight, rugged and flexible displays are required. Plastic substrates, however, are far less resistant than glass to penetration of water vapor and oxygen, which damage the typical display materials.

"Through a novel approach of using a radioisotope, such a tritium, as tracer materials, General Atomics can provide detection capability far surpassing that which is currently available. This capability was confirmed in prior feasibility studies that tested procedures and hardware," stated Dr. Bob Pinnel, USDC's chief technical officer. The USDC- funded project follows on several other awards made recently by the consortium to push forward display manufacturing on flexible substrates.

The USDC-sponsored project, which is 50/50 cost-shared with General Atomics, is targeted to provide detection capability that is 3-4 orders of magnitude greater than current detection limits of 0.005 grams/square meter per day. General Atomics will design test methods, re-design an existing test system for enhanced automation and accuracy, and establish a commercial testing service for the flat panel display industry. The project is expected to be complete in twelve months.

The USDC program is a collaborative effort of private industry and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, located in Adelphi, MD. "I have supported the Army and USDC effort to develop advanced display technologies," said Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA). "This award to General Atomics is good news for California and moves us closer to the goal of introducing flexible displays into the military and commercial markets." Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA/53) added, "Communication products that incorporate displays will speed the Army's transformation to a future fighting force. I am delighted that General Atomics and the U.S. Display Consortium will be working together on advanced capability for display manufacturing on flexible materials."

" We are very pleased to work with USDC on solving the water permeation measurement for plastic substrates to the levels needed for OLED's," noted Linden P. Blue, senior vice president of General Atomics.

About the U.S. Display Consortium

The USDC is an industry-led public/private partnership providing a common platform for flat panel display manufacturers and developers, FPD users, and the supplier base. Headquartered in San Jose, Calif., the consortium's primary mission is to fund supply-chain projects and share the results with USDC member companies. The USDC also provides a communication channel among industry, government and the financial communities for display issues; sponsors workshops to broaden the impact of technological developments; and educates consumers on the importance of displays in providing access to information technology. More information can be found at www.usdc.org

About General Atomics

General Atomics, founded in 1955, specializes in diversified research, development, and manufacturing in defense, energy, and other advanced technologies. For more information about General Atomics, visit the company website at http://www.ga.com.


Heidi Hoffman
PH: 408.277.2400
FAX: 408.277.2490
Email: heidi@usdc.org

Ralf Dunkel
General Atomics
PH: 858.455.2751
FAX: 858.455.2530
Email: ralf.dunkel@gat.com


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