S'pore facility delves into plastic electronics

Japanese materials firm Nitto Denko sets up research site in Singapore; pumps US$6.6 million to develop integrated organic electronics with three partners.

Japanese materials maker Nitto Denko has unveiled a S$10 million (US$6.6 million) investment over a three-year period for the development of new organic electronic sensing devices.

According to a company statement Wednesday, Nitto Denko will collaborate with two A*Star (Agency for Science, Technology and Research) affiliates--Data Storage Institute (DSI) and Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE)--and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), on three concurrent research projects that could lead to several breakthroughs particularly in organic electronics.

The Japanese manufacturer believes the partnership will help develop novel, miniaturized and affordable sensor products with high sensitivity. These devices will have multiple applications in healthcare, electronics and environmental-related industries, said Nitto Denko CTO Yasuo Ninomiya, in the statement.

Organic electronics, or plastic electronics, relies on carbon-based conductors, compared to traditional electronics that use inorganic materials such as copper or silicon. Research has shown that conductive polymers are lighter, more flexible and less expensive, making them a viable option for use in high-tech devices such as semiconductors, light emitters, electronic paper, smart glass and even plastic solar cells, said Nitto Denko.

The company signed three-year agreements with the three partners at the official opening of Nitto Denko's new research and development facility in Singapore today. The new Nitto Denko Asia Technical Centre is the company's second facility in Singapore and its first R&D site in Southeast Asia. Nitto Denko also has R&D labs in Japan, the United States and Belgium.

Under the research agreement, Nitto Denko will provide its expertise on polymer waveguides, while the NTU will focus on photonic research. DSI and IMRE will contribute to complex vibration numerical/experimental analyses and organic electronics, respectively.

Tjin Swee Chuan, principal investigator at NTU's School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, said in the statement: "Our project utilizes Nitto Denko's polymer to create micron-sized optical waveguides using NTU's patented laser technique which is simpler and more cost-effective.

"An optical waveguide is a physical structure that guides electromagnetic waves. The optical waveguides that we are researching can be used in biosensors for early detection of diseases such as Sars or heart diseases," he explained. "With our four patented techniques which can be potentially used in the development of this biosensor, we are confident that this will be a very fruitful partnership."

Organic electronics has been identified by the Singapore government as a new growth area in the high-tech sector for the country. In 2007, electronics accounted for almost 30 percent of manufacturing output and about 7 percent of Singapore's GDP.