Active and intelligent packaging represents a great growth area for plastics, according to several officials who presented papers during the Society of Plastics Engineers' annual technical conference, held May 6-10 in Cincinnati.
Areas include materials chemistry for printed electronics applications, functional films for intelligent packaging and getter materials for quasi-hermetic electronic packaging applications. Getter materials are used to remove residual gases chemically.
Polymers for active semiconductor device applications, especially organic and polymer semiconductors, are an emerging area of interest, said Elsa Reichmanis, director of materials research with Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J.
Reichmanis said materials structure in materials chemistry for printed electronics applications will impact electrical performance, morphology, adhesion, mechanical integrity and chemical and environmental stability.
Also, materials solubility and thermal characteristics will determine the choice of patterning technology that can enable low-cost, high throughput of semiconductor circuits and devices.
Intelligent packaging applications now may include functional films with embedded sensors, piezoelectric films for energy harvesting and radio-frequency identification tags directly printed on very durable film substrates for low-cost tags in aggressive environments, according to one official with Bayer MaterialScience LLC.
One such category could be medical, where films can be altered from the simple function of a Band-Aid to anti-microbial polyurethane foam to artificial skin.
``Films actively participate in device functionality,'' said Ramesh Pisipati, senior project development manager in Industry Innovations with Bayer in Pittsburgh.
In areas such as sensor films, one could gain a sensor function by adding functional dyes to the polymer, for example, fluorescent dyes in polyethylene. Or think conductive polymers in the fenestration industry for products like windows and doors.
The concept in consumer products could translate into a lighted display inside a woman's handbag to show its contents.
``It opens up endless design possibilities,'' Pisipati said. Additionally, there's ``increasing collaboration between chemical and printing companies to develop new markets.''
In getter materials for quasi-hermetic electronic packaging applications, achieving balance between component price and performance for robust and reliable micro-electronic packaging is crucial in areas such as military/space electronics, optoelectronics and medical electronics, said one official with Cookson Electronics in Alpharetta, Ga.
To that end, the application and development of getter material that selectively scavenges or attracts otherwise detrimental elements to extend life expectancy of a device is key to getting low-cost, high-performance quasi-hermetic packaging devices, said Gene Kim, principal staff engineer with Cookson's Semiconductor Products group.
Customer demands will largely drive the properties of the getter material, Kim said in his May 8 presentation.
``The customer needs these types of materials,'' he said. ``Every customer has a separate requirement.''
Target applications include military and medical electronics; solar cells and fuel cells; high brightness LEDs; and opto-electronics.