This Partnerships for Innovation project from Kent State University, which is partnering with two knowledge-enhancement partner companies and five other academic, industrial and non-profit partners, will establish a broad platform on liquid crystal (LC) - polymer interfaces. LC - polymer interfaces have been of vital importance in the liquid crystal display (LCD) industry since its inception. The recent advent of flexible LCDs using plastic substrates is generating renewed and urgent interest in interface design and associated behavior. The move from glass to soft flexible substrates not only raises new technical problems, but also illuminates old ones. These problems and questions of basic science are exceptionally close and are inextricably linked; the goal of the project is to connect device and manufacturing issues in industry to the frontiers of academic research. The project aims to identify the technical issues in real products of the partner companies and to offer solutions based on the state-of-the-art characterization, computational materials science, and novel materials development. The proposed platform will not only solve key problems in currently emerging technologies, but it will also enable new LC-on-plastic (LCOP) technologies and thereby provide to U.S. industry new opportunities with the potential for strong economic development based on LCOP products.
The broader impacts of this research are potentially large-scale economic opportunities for U.S. display and related industries. A dramatic technological change today is the move of LCDs from glass to plastic substrates. This change represents a tremendous opportunity for U.S. industry to again establish a leadership position and develop and benefit from the emerging LCOP technology. The partnership will disseminate project results through networks in the LC-polymer community and provide a model for future industry-university collaboration in practical problem solving. If the current challenges are overcome, the U.S. will have the opportunity to harness, develop, and cultivate this emerging new technology, with vast technological and economic promise.
Partners at the inception of the project include the Knowledge-Enhancement Partnership (KEP) unit, consisting of Kent State University (Liquid Crystal Institute) and two small businesses: AlphaMicron (AMI) (Kent, OH), and Kent Displays (KDI) (Kent, OH), both of which are the pioneers responsible for the breakthrough demonstrations that LCOP technology is possible. In addition, there are other partners. These partners include other academic institutions: University of Akron and University of Oklahoma; a private sector organization (non-profit): Bridgestone Americas Center for Research Technology; and public sector organizations: Nortech/FlexMatters and Polymer Ohio Inc.