New 3M film protects electronics from water vapor, oxygen

This ain't your Daddy's display: 3M's new film is thinner, lighter, more flexible and more impact-resistant than glass, all while stopping contaminants from ruining electronics.

If you weren't aware, 3M -- yes, the Scotch Tape company -- makes some pretty novel products. This morning, its optical division announced the wide availability of its FTB3 film, which protects electronics from water vapor and oxygen.

Let's face it: electronics just aren't built for the natural world. (And the world is a harsh place, man.) Smartphones, e-readers, solar panels, televisions, outdoor displays, even lighting -- all of them are effectively a tradeoff between performance and durability. And you wouldn't want moisture splotches on your shiny new device, would you?

That's why we cover our electronic devices with barrier films. 3M's new film -- which was previously in the wild only under limited R&D agreements -- is flexible, optically clear and cheap to manufacture, using roll-to-roll processing methods.

The film is comprised of a base layer of polyester, between 50 and 125 microns thick, topped by a thin ("thin" in this context meaning less than two microns) barrier coating made up of layers of polymer and oxide.

The result: a clear, pliable, lightweight film that transfers water vapor at a rate of less than 1x10-3 grams per square meter, per day, at 20 degrees Celsius -- two to three times better than packaging-grade barrier films, the company says.

(It's also insulating, non-conducting and smoother than a baby's bottom. In other words, the perfect material to invite over for dinner.)

All this stacks up to the potential for new kinds of electronic displays -- from the electrophoretic and electrochromic to the OLED displays popular on modern smartphones -- as well as more robust yet flexible solar panels.

"Many new technologies incorporate organic electronics or other components that need protection from water vapor and oxygen," 3M's Art Lathrop said. "FTB3 provides superior protection from those and other contaminants while at the same time it is thinner, lighter, more flexible and more impact resistant than glass."

Photo: Lena Greiwe/Flickr

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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