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The next generation of flexible mobile phone screens, solar cells and other high-tech products are one step closer to becoming a reality thanks to a new partnership agreement between Boron Molecular, Kyung-In Synthetic Corporation (KISCO) and CSIRO, the Australian Science Agency and innovation catalyst.
The agreement will see Melbourne-based Boron Molecular commercialize CSIRO’s chemical processes and technology, including flow chemistry, which is crucial to creating flexible phone screens and other high-tech products.
Flow Chemistry is Key to Flexible Phone Screens
There are already smartphones on the market that have flexible or foldable screens; instead of a layer of glass – which is thick, heavy and easily broken - the display is a layer of polymer or plastic film which can be bent and flexed without becoming damaged.
These polymers must be of high purity to ensure material flexibility, but this can be hard to achieve with current manufacturing techniques such as polymerization. This process can often result in a varied mixture of polymers, and offers little or no control over their molecular structure and properties. Greater regulation of the polymers created would provide an opportunity to develop new and improved products.
CSIRO’s flow chemistry technique is a novel, advanced way of processing chemicals; it intensifies the procedure to provide greater control and better outcomes on a much smaller scale. It allows for precise localized heat, pressure and mixing of chemicals as they flow continuously through pipes or tubes in a process that is both efficient and cost-effective.
The result is a competitive, high-quality material with smaller capital expenditure and production costs. The flow chemistry technique can also be used to make reagents for RAFT and to make MOFs.
RAFT and MOFs
CSIRO’s reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization process permits the production of plastics and polymers designed with enhanced properties. Such polymers could be utilized in health, industry and agriculture with products ranging from novel drug delivery systems to personal care products, lubricants and coatings.
The technique provides a better way of making polymers and creates products with improved performance, say CSIRO, which aims to solve the greatest challenges through innovative science and technology. Furthermore, it is based on scalable manufacturing processes that are compatible with conventional polymerization reactors.
Metal-organic frameworks or MOFs are a class of crystalline materials with a large surface area that can be manipulated to absorb molecules and pluck water from the air. These porous materials – created using flow chemistry - will find use in gas storage, purification and separation, batteries and catalysis and sensing applications.
Building and Extending Relationships
The agreement will initially focus on flexible electronics and see Boron Molecular adopt CSIRO’s flow chemistry technology to make the reagents for RAFT and to create MOFs.
It is expected that the first products to reach the market – likely Korean electronics companies later in 2020 – will be high-purity precision-engineered polymers produced using flow chemistry and RAFT.
Boron Molecular was spun out of CSIRO 20 years ago and took a suite of products to market. Global pharmaceutical companies use these products as building blocks for new drugs. The new agreement will allow Boron Molecular to further commercialize CSIRO’s technology in new products and global markets via KISCO’s international links and production capacity.
“We thank CSIRO for their long-term trust in, and support for our company,” said Zoran Manev, managing director of Boron Molecular.
“Now with the manufacturing capability, international reach and reputation of KISCO, we can offer CSIRO’s chemical technologies at scale to a global market.”
Zoran Manev, managing director of Boron Molecular
The deal will enable the continued growth of Boron Molecular’s manufacturing capability in Australia, and see CSIRO continue to use science to strengthen local businesses and create future industries and jobs, while also using their technology to open up global markets.
CSIRO’s partnership with KISCO and Boron Molecular builds on over 40 years of the agency’s technological leadership in chemical processing and polymers, which has resulted in Australia’s plastic banknote in addition to items such as extended wear contact lenses and biodegradable plastics for biomedical applications.
The deal will see CSIRO and KISCO – who create colors, dyes inks and fine chemicals and materials for textiles, food, agriculture and electronics – take a minority shareholding in Boron Molecular.
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Although this partnership agreement initially aims to offer high-purity precision-engineered polymers to the Korean market, it won't be long before the technology is offered worldwide. This will present manufacturers with efficient materials to develop next-generation flexible phone screens, solar cells and other high-tech electronics.
References and Further Reading
Boron Molecular (2020) Flexible phone screen chemicals kick off new industry partnership for South Korea and Australia, Boron Molecular https://www.boronmolecular.com/flexible-phone-screen-chemicals-kick-off-new-industry-partnership-for-south-korea-and-australia/ (accessed 15 July 2020).
Manufacturers’’ Monthly (2020) Boron Molecular, KISCO and CSIRO kick off new industry partnership for flexible phone screen materials, Manufacturers’ Monthly https://www.manmonthly.com.au/news/kisco-csiro-kick-off-new-industry-partnership-flexible-phone-screen-materials/ (accessed 15 July 2020).
CSIRO (2019) RAFT: making better polymers, CSIRO https://www.csiro.au/en/Research/MF/Areas/Chemicals-and-fibres/Chemistry-and-biotechnology/RAFT (accessed 15 July 2020).
CSIRO, Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs) CSIRO https://www.csiro.au/en/Do-business/Commercialisation/Marketplace/MOFs (accessed 15 July 2020).
CSIRO (2019) Flow chemistry: rapid chemical synthesis, CSIRO https://www.csiro.au/en/Research/MF/Areas/Chemicals-and-fibres/Chemistry-and-biotechnology/Chemical-Technologies (accessed 15 July 2020).