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NEC, AIST and Meijo Nano Carbon Develop a Technology for Manufacturing High Purity Semiconducting CNT Ideal for Printed Electronics

- Meijo Nano Carbon to begin marketing semiconducting CNT from FY2018 -

Tokyo, Japan, February 8, 2018NEC Corporation (NEC; TSE: 6701), the Nanomaterials Research Institute of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), and Meijo Nano Carbon Co., Ltd. have successfully established a manufacturing technology for separating semiconducting single-wall carbon nanotubes (CNTs) (*1) at high purities above 99% using nonionic dispersant (Figure 1). This first-time development (*2) was achieved through a project coordinated by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). Meijo Nano Carbon aims to begin marketing semiconducting CNTs from FY2018.

These semiconducting CNTs enable fabrication of large area, ultra-thin and flexible, as well as low cost and high-speed transistors when used for Printed Electronics (*3). Such transistors are expected to be applied to sensor devices that function as IoT elements throughout a wide range of fields, including marketing technologies at convenience stores and supermarkets, as well as medical applications.
 
This newly developed single-wall CNT separation technique, the "ELF method" (Figure 2), separates semiconducting and metallic CNTs by electrophoresis of CNT dispersion containing nonionic surfactant. Since the resulting semiconducting CNT dispersion does not contain ionic surfactant, which is likely to inhibit device operations, the technique enables stable manufacturing of high performance transistors (Figure 3).

"Going forward, we aim to introduce this technology to businesses, universities and research institutions throughout the world, as we work together to explore new applications and expand business opportunities," said Mr. Soichi Tsumura, General Manager, IoT Devices Research Laboratories, NEC Corporation.

Figure 1. Semiconducting and metallic CNTs in their dispersions are separated at high purities above 99% with the ELF method (The color of the dispersion changes from bluish to reddish as CNTs change from semiconductor to metal).

Figure 2. (a) The Single-wall CNT separator using the ELF method (b) Optical absorption spectra of dispersions before and after separation.

Figure 3. Device characteristics of field-effect transistors (FETs) manufactured with highly functional ink from semiconducting CNTs (16 × 16 FET devices manufactured on a flexible substrate).

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Notes:
  • *1Single-Wall Carbon Nanotube (CNT): Carbon nanotubes are a class of carbon material first discovered by Dr. Sumio Iijima, an NEC research fellow. Single-Wall CNTs have a cylindrical structure with a diameter of 1 nm. They display semiconducting or metallic characteristics depending on differences in the arrangement of hexagons in the wall. Semiconducting and metallic CNTs are generated at a 2:1 ratio.
  • *2According to NEC research, as of February 8, 2018
  • *3Printed Electronics: Manufacturing technology to produce electronics products, such as electronic circuits, using printing technologies. It is expected to be a next generation technology as a variety of materials can be used as circuit boards by making use of printing technology characteristics. In addition, this process is simpler and more convenient than conventional production methods.

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