Interview conducted by Will Soutter
In this Insights from Industry interview, Samuel Halim, CEO and founder of Nanograde, talks to AZoNano about their custom nanoparticle production services, and their new "off-the-shelf" nanoparticle inks for printed electronics.
WS: Please give us a brief overview of Nanograde and the services you offer.
SH: Nanograde specializes in developing nanomaterials for electronic or optical applications. We work with a wide range of industrial partners from the electronics and optics industry to develop the next generation of advanced materials. These materials are designed to either solve a problem, or enable new types of production methods (e.g. printed electronics).
We are launching our first materials in 2014, and we hope that by 2015 our materials will be built into millions of electronic devices.
Since we have strong knowhow in customizing nanoparticle compositions, as well as nanoparticle dispersions and inks, we can offer unique services to both industry and academia on an R&D level.
Have you ever struggled to find a material for a proof-of-concept study? It’s precisely this problem we can solve. Our expertise lies in supplying research quantities of custom inorganic nanoparticles, either as a powder, or in a suspension or ink.
Nanograde's nanoparticle inks can help enable printed electronics, reducing device manufacturing costs. Image credit: © Nanograde
WS: What sort of customers do you work with?
SH: As indicated before, we work with the international leaders in the fields of electronics and optics to enable development of their next generation products. Our unique expertise helps our industrial partners to speed up their product development cycles. We really appreciate the challenges and rewards of working on these very large and complex projects.
We also have a lot of customers in academia and industrial R&D, who use our custom materials service to quickly achieve proof-of-concepts without having to go via their legal departments. The customized samples come in the form of either a nanoparticle suspension or dry nanoparticles, and are usually are usually shipped within just a few weeks after the order.
WS: Are there any specific applications of nanomaterials that Nanograde specializes in?
SH: We are currently focusing on any sort of printed electronics applications. In this industry segment, our customers need high quality liquids designed for coating or printing, allowing the fabrication of electronic devices.
Our materials enable cost-effective production, whilst ensuring the quality requirements of the electronics industry are met.
WS: How did you originally get involved in nanoparticle synthesis?
SH: I started working with our unique technology during my undergrad studies. I was so impressed with the potential of the technology that I decided to write my PhD thesis in this domain.
During my PhD thesis I met my colleague Norman Luechinger, and we founded Nanograde together with our PhD advisor Wendelin Stark. We don’t regret it so far!
WS: Nanograde is now offering nanoparticle inks designed specifically for printed electronics – what do you find attractive about this area of technology in particular?
SH: If you look at the bill of materials of a device like a smartphone, you will find that the most expensive part is the display. One of the main reasons for that is the cost of the processes that the electronic industry uses to build these displays – mostly vacuum deposition of inorganic layers.
Replacing these steps with printing techniques would save a lot of money. The missing piece is the materials which enable these efficient techniques - and this is where we come into play.
WS: How do Nanograde’s offerings for printed electronics differ from other materials?
SH: To the best of my knowledge, we are the first company that has developed materials for this field that fulfil the complete list of requirements - printability, low processing temperatures, state-of-the-art performance, enhanced life time and affordability.
For a materials developer, the difficulty of a development program rises exponentially with the number of requirements you have, so we are very pleased with our achievements in this area. Our industrial partners have tested our materials extensively, with very good results.
WS: Are there any commercial devices that Nanograde’s inks have appeared in, or any manufacturers that you have been working closely with?
SH: So far, no products have been produced with our materials. But this will change by 2015, when the first products with our materials will be launched worldwide.
WS: Are there any other applications that you plan to provide more “ready-made” products for, like you have for printed electronics inks?
SH: Indeed, but unfortunately, we cannot comment on these are materials at this point.
On the R&D level, we have started offering some of our most sought-after materials as “off-the-shelf” products without customization.
WS: What are Nanograde’s plans for 2014?
SH: Our focus will be to set up our first commercial production line, which will be state-of-the-art, and will allow us to supply our materials into the electronics industry. This will be a major step for Nanograde.
WS: Where can we find more information about Nanograde?
SH: The best place to find information is through our website. There, you will find all necessary information including our company brochure which is available to download. And you can contact us by email or telephone any time. We are happy to help you solve your materials challenges!
About Samuel Halim
Samuel Halim earned his PhD in Chemical Engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) after completing his materials engineering education in Zurich, Lausanne and Stockholm.
Samuel has worked with Nanograde's technology since 2003 and is co-inventor of technology that was acquired by a Fortune 100 company. Samuel is winner of the Venture Leader 2009 award and co-founded Nanograde in 2008.