HP and CRANN embark on €3.7-million nanotech co-investment

18 Nov 2009

A new research initiative between HP and the Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN) will heavily influence the future of ultra-light TV and computer screens, it has emerged.

The Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation Conor Lenihan announced that Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and HP will jointly fund a €3.7-million research programme in Ireland with CRANN, the SFI-funded Centre for Science Engineering and Technology (CSET) located in Trinity College Dublin.

The Ireland-based HP research team are part of a worldwide R&D organisation working on the development of technologies for flexible electronics.

Collaborative effort

The research programme announced on 18 November builds on the existing highly successful three-year nanoscience collaboration between CRANN and HP Ireland to develop a low-cost flexible, transparent, thin-film electrode, which is a critical component in the development of flexible displays.

The newly announced research programme extends the work carried out to date and will contribute to the development of flexible displays that can be used for laptops, e-books and other electronic devices which are ultra thin, flexible, lightweight and have low power consumption.

“Over the past number of years, the Government, through SFI, has invested heavily in our R&D capability to support joint collaborative initiatives like this, which will lead to the commercialisation of cutting-edge products,” Lenihan said.

“It is a great testament to the quality of the research carried out in CRANN that Ireland is now recognised as a global location for nano research.

“This decision by HP will send a message globally that Ireland has the infrastructure and the quality of people to deliver results, which in turn will attract further international investment leading to new jobs in Ireland.”

Projects in the works

Among the projects that will be worked on is Imagine, a television screen which operates like a blind. It can be rolled down when needed and rolled up when not in use. Envisage electronic paper, which looks and feels like “real” paper, can be folded and rolled like real paper but it has the capability to update its content in real time as the news develops. These types of developments are becoming very close to being realised due to nanotechnology.

HP is one of the companies which is developing significant capability in this area. The initiative is designed to develop materials and processes that are compatible with roll-to-roll equipment so that a production line will look more like a newspaper print press than a conventional semi-conductor fab.

This research is directly linked to a major strategic initiative within HP to develop flexible; transparent displays utilising low-cost manufacturing. The programme integrates the research activity at CRANN and HP Ireland with HP’s technology road map. This strategy will enable HP Ireland to partner with, and directly harness, the ongoing research capability at CRANN and to develop its mandate as a leading solution provider within HP globally.

It is expected that this research will transfer to HP over the course of this programme to enable new products, process improvements and commercially relevant technological advancements.

Drawing investment

“The proven capability and expertise here at HP Ireland combined with our successful collaboration and strong relationship with CRANN, funded through SFI, has enabled us to attract this investment from HP in the US to Ireland,” explained Pat Harnett, R&D manager, HP Ireland.

“This partnership with CRANN provides a platform to grow research activity within HP Ireland.”

In addition to high-quality Irish publications in leading international journals, valuable intellectual property development and the training and mentoring of new students in this industrially relevant sector – these are all anticipated outcomes of this research project. This programme will continue to ensure high-quality sustained research activity in Ireland, a key factor in enabling HP activities both locally and globally.

“The decision by HP to locate this research programme in Ireland demonstrates that we are seen as a location of excellence for nanoscience,” said Dr Diarmuid O’Brien, executive director, CRANN.

“The investment in science by Government and industry over the past number of years is providing measurable returns for Ireland through our ability to attract programmes like this and our enhanced reputation internationally.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years