Published June 18, 2013
Volume 21, Number 6

Rolith’s Nanolithography Produces Advances in Displays, Solar Cells, and Window Glass   

Rolith’s Hacienda lab plays an integral role in the
company’s development of new technologies.

By Nicole Zaro Stahl

Technology start-up Rolith, Inc., reached a major milestone in March when it announced its second-generation nanostructuring prototype tool, RML-2, named for the “disruptive nanolithography method” Rolling Mask Lithography the company has pioneered.

“RML-2 enables users to create nanostructures over large areas–up to 1m by 0.3 m–of substrate materials in a high-throughput and cost-effective manner,” reports CEO/President Boris Kobrin, Ph.D., who formed the company in 2008 with two co-founders. Rolith’s breakthrough nanopatterning technique is good news for the renewable energy, electronics, and green building markets, where the search is on for new, economical methods and materials to improve glass performance. Some of the advanced products that could be enabled by RML technology include high efficiency solar panels, high brightness LEDs, glare-free and energy-efficient cell phones, tablets, computer and TV screens, and Low-E glass windows. 

The RML-2 prototype tool was built in partnership with German equipment manufacturer SUSS MicroTec AG and is installed in Rolith’s Hacienda lab and in the Tokyo, Japan, R&D facility of Rolith’s strategic commercial partner, Asahi Glass Company. The two firms are engaged in a joint development project to fabricate an anti-reflective glass product for the architecture, display, and automotive markets.

With development activity advancing as planned, Kobrin expects to reach completion and move to further commercialization of the tool next year. Rolith will be showing samples of the nanopatterned glass at the Semicon West trade show in July. Business development efforts have built up a backlog of companies interested in obtaining the demonstration samples to develop further products.

The next application, also under development, will replace the rare earth material indium tin oxide (ITO) electrodes used in display fabrication. ITO has many drawbacks, Kobrin explains. Its rarity makes it expensive, and its reflectivity produces glare. Plus, conductivity is not high enough to be applied for large size displays without losing transparency. “It is satisfactory for cell phones and tablets, but not for a touch screen monitor or TV. And obviously if you want to move to the next-generation flexible displays expected in a few years, it is not compatible. It is a solid layer and will break. It doesn’t flex or bend.”

Rolith’s solution is a metal grid of nanowires that has very high transparency and conductivity while being glare-free and invisible to the human eye. The network of metallic nanowires would enable the low-voltage, high-resolution operation of touch screen sensors.

Over the past two years the company has built a full-time team of technology experts, most with doctorates in fields like physics, material science, and electrical engineering. In May 2012 Rolith supplemented its 2010 seed round funding with a Series A round, which helped to build its state-of-the-art lithography and material processing labs in Hacienda. The start-up is currently in the middle of Series B fundraising, hoping to close before year end.

Kobrin would like to raise the profile of the technology Rolith is inventing. “We are doing real, substantial manufacturing technology development for consumer products. It’s important to invest in electronics, optics, and hardware and process engineering in general to remain an advanced country,” he emphasizes.

For more information, visit www.rolith.com.

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