China company taps bioplastics for use in flat panel displays

By Steve Toloken
Staff Reporter / Asia Bureau Chief

Published: December 13, 2012 6:00 am ET

Wayne Song of Futuresoft materials holds one of his plastic flat panel displays. (Plastics News photo by Steve Toloken)

Related to this story

Topics Consumer Products, Materials, Film & Sheet, Suppliers

NINGBO, CHINA (Dec. 13, 3:25 p.m. ET) — Major consumer electronics companies around the world are trying to develop flexible plastic panels to replace the glass used in screens for computers and mobile phones.

At a small factory near Shanghai, Chinese-Canadian plastics entrepreneur Wayne Song believes he’s closing in on commercializing technology to use biocomposites to make such a display, by mixing nano-scale natural fibers with polycarbonate and other optical-grade plastics.

The fibers, which are 1/1000th the thickness of a human hair, or about 50 nanometers, give the plastic the same performance as the specialized glass used now. The key in manufacturing is how to process the plant fibers, said Song.

“Nano-materials are big, everybody is doing it and the market is huge, but the bottleneck is the processing and how to disperse the fibers in an efficient, economical way,” said Song, president of Futuresoft Materials Inc. in Jiangyin. “Many people are making the particles but the particles have to be delivered in a useful fashion.”

The process can use a variety of natural fibers, including aloe, crab shells and wood.

Futuresoft Materials wants to make the film for the display panels, using a cast-film process, and not to make the display panels directly. If the research goes well the company will attract more investment, he said.

Song, who also is president of Mississauga, Ontario-based extrusion and wood-plastic composites technology firm Futuresoft Technologies Inc., has worked in the WPC industries in North America since 1989.

He says he was one of the first people to bring WPC technology to China starting in the late 1990s.

If the work can be commercialized successfully, Song said it will create a plastic screen that is bendable and hard to break, potentially opening up many new applications. He said some electronics industry experts expect the plastic panels to replace glass over time.

In an interview at the China Sixth International Forum of Wood Plastic Composites, held Nov. 3-4 in Ningbo, Song said he’s developed mixing technology that can disperse the fibers in a much more uniform way than traditional single- or twin-screw extrusion.

One key is to disperse the fibers in a way that they are not aggregated and each nano-fiber is under the visible light spectrum, so they are transparent in the film, he said.

The plant fibers actually improve the plastic by giving it the same thermal expansion coefficient as glass, said Song, who has a Ph.D in polymer processing and machinery from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

Normally, Song said, plastic has a thermal expansion coefficient and order of magnitude higher than glass — meaning that the expansion or stretching of the plastic would break the circuits inside the display screen — but the fibers give the plastic panels the same thermal expansion properties as glass.

Song said a US$1 million research effort is closing in on a commercial prototype.

“Right now we are trying to make it into panels, so within this year, by year-end, I will show you this film with electronic circuits imprinted and show you a TV screen that is bendable,” he said. “That is our target, by end of this year.”

Futuresoft Materials is not the only organization working on using bio-based fibers this way.

The company is working with Mohini Sain, director of the Centre for Biocomposites and Biomaterials Processing at the University of Toronto and dean of the university’s Faculty of Forestry. Also, Song said researchers in Sweden and Japan are working independently on similar technology.

Right now, the glass used in display panels is only made by four companies around the world, including Corning Display Technologies in Corning, N.Y., Japan’s Asahi Glass Co. and Nippon Electric Glass Co. Ltd., and a joint venture of Corning and Korea’s Samsung Corp.

But many consumer electronics companies are researching such plastic panels. Hewlett-Packard, for example, in 2009 released a flexible plastic prototype screen developed with researchers at Arizona State University.

Most of the world’s glass panel displays are made in mainland China or Taiwan but the key technology generally rests with other countries, Song said.


Comments

China company taps bioplastics for use in flat panel displays

By Steve Toloken
Staff Reporter / Asia Bureau Chief

Published: December 13, 2012 6:00 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Newell Rubbermaid to acquire Contigo brand

July 21, 2014 5:00 pm ET

Consumer products company Newell Rubbermaid Inc. has signed an agreement to acquire Ignite Holdings LLC, owner of the Contigo and Avex brands of...    More

Image

Windmöller & Hölscher looking to continued growth in China

July 21, 2014 3:40 pm ET

With 2013 global sales of 600 million euros, China has grown into an important export market for Windmöller & Hölscher KG, second only to the United...    More

Image

Grocery store chain says bag recycling up by 10 percent

July 21, 2014 2:54 pm ET

Kroger Co., with more than 2,600 stores in 34 states and sales nearing $100 billion, saw plastic bag recycling increase by 10 percent last year.    More

Image

New startup uses film for a 'virtual venetian blind' in smart windows

July 21, 2014 12:50 pm ET

Flexible ITO Solutions, which goes by FITOS, has an informal development agreement with a smart window manufacturer that could use the technology to...    More

China launches investments in Belarus

July 21, 2014 10:10 am ET

China is preparing to invest in a major bottle grade PET production project planned by the Belarus PET and polyester fibers producer Mogilevkhimvolokn...    More

Market Reports

Injection Molders Market Report & Ranking 2014

This special package contains our 132-page 2014 Market Report on the Injection Molding segment and our exclusive 2014 RANKINGS database of 500+ Injection Molders for a discounted package price.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Market Review & Outlook 2014

This special report from Plastics News examines the North American plastics recycling industry and provides insight into indicators that impact market viability, including Resin pricing trends for virgin and recycled market material and historical Resin production trends for post- consumer and industrial waste.

Learn more

Shale Gas Market - Analysis of North American Region

This report highlights the impact of shale-based natural gas on the North American plastics market and features an in-depth analysis of production trends in the United States during 2013 and a forecast for 2014 and beyond.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events