Sustainable Manufacturing of Transparent Conducting Oxide (TCO) Inks and Thin Films

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Chemistry

Abstract

This project seeks to develop processes and resources towards sustainable and inexpensive high quality transparent conducting oxide (TCO) films (and printed tracks) on float glass, plastics and steel. In particular replacement materials for Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) and F-doped Tin Oxide (FTO). These materials are used in low-e window coatings (>£5B pa), computers, phones and PV devices. The current electronics market alone is worth in excess of £0.9 Trillion and every tablet PC uses ca 3g of tin. Indium is listed as a critical element- available in limited amounts often in unstable geopolitical areas. Tin metal has had the biggest rise in price of any metal consecutively in the last four years (valued at >£30K per ton) and indium is seen as one of the most difficult to source elements. In this project we will develop sustainable upscaled routes to TCO materials from precursors containing earth abundant elements (titanium, aluminium, zinc) with equivalent or better figures of merit to existing TCOs.

Our method uses Aerosol assisted (AA) CVD to develop large scale coatings and developing new manufacturing approach to printed TCOs using highly uniform nanoparticle dispersions. AACVD has not been upscaled- although the related Atmospheric pressure (AP) CVD is widely used industrially. APCVD was developed in the UK (Pilkington now NSG) for commercial window coating methods- and in the UK glass industry supports >5000 jobs in the supply chain. Our challenge is to take our known chemistry and develop the underpinning science to demonstrate scale up routes to large area coatings. This will include pilot scale AACVD, nanoparticle dispersions and inks. Common precursor sets will be utilized in all the techniques. Our focus will be to ensure that the UK maintains a world-leading capability in the manufacturing of and with sustainable TCOs. This will be achieved by delivering two new scale up pathways one based on AACVD- for large area coatings and inks and dispersi for automotive and PC use.

We will use known and sustainable metal containing precursors to deposit TCOs that do not involve rare elements (e.g. based on Ti, Zn, Al). Key issues will be (1) taking the existing aerosol assisted chemical vapour deposition (AACVD) process from small lab scale to a large pilot lab scale reactor (TRL3) and (2) developing a new approach to TCOs from transparent nanoparticle dispersions synthesized in a continuous hydrothermal flow systems (CHFS) reactor using an existing EPSRC funded pilot plant process (kg/h scale). Nano-dispersions will be formulated for use by the rest of the team, in jet and screen printing, advanced microwave processing and TCO application testing. Industry partners will provide engineering support, guidance on the aerosol transport issues, scale up and dynamic coating trials (Pilkington now NSG), jet and screen printing on glass (Xaar, Akzo Nobel, CPI) and use the TCO targets for Magnetron Sputtering of thin films on plastics (Teer Coatings). The two strands will be overseen by Life-cycle modelling and cost benefit analyses to take a holistic approach to the considerations of energy, materials consumption and waste and, in consultation with key stakeholders and policy makers, identify best approaches to making improvement or changes, e.g. accounting for environmental legislation in nanomaterials, waste disposal or recyclability of photovoltaics. We believe there is a real synergy of having two strands as they are linked by common scale up manufacturing issues and use similar process chemistries and precursors.

Planned Impact

The research in this project will clearly have impact on:

> Society, by developing science and technology to improve quality of life. For example, solar energy panels offer alternative energy harvesting solutions. NSG's transparent conducting oxide (TCO) glass is used in the manufacture of panels for direct conversion of solar radiation to electricity, and TCO films find application in tablets, smartphones and electronic devices.

> The Economy, through the design and development, in partnership with leading UK companies, to develop new sustainable / scalable manufacturing methods for forming TCOs. Commercial and economic benefits will occur through developments in processing methods towards upscale manufacture of alternative TCOs on substrates, replacing rare and unsustainable elements with more earth abundant elements. This will ensure the UK maintains a world-leading capability in the manufacturing of sustainable ITO alternatives (will be ~20% of the TCO market, worth $925 million by 2016).

> Knowledge, both academic and commercial, since significant advances in alternative precursor strategies, paint and ink preparation and thin film deposition, and partial scale-up of TCOs will be delivered during the project.

> People, through the expertise developed by the research team, including the training received and the range of transferable skills developed via interactions with industry, academics, engagement with the media, the general public, policy makers and legislators.

In addition to the obvious benefits to academic researchers in the field, the research will benefit in particular, (i) the UK and global commercial sector, but also, (ii) the general public, (iii) the public sector, and, more speculatively, (iv) voluntary workers and charities.

> The Commercial Sector
The thin film solar market is predicted to grow six-fold over the next 5 years to 2GW by 2015. As such, there is pressure to supply large volumes of improved sustainable TCO coatings with properties that meet the differing requirements that thin film solar-cell manufacturer's demand. NSG are the world's largest supplier of TCO glass and therefore will benefit via technology developments during this project. Other industry will also benefit, through development of TCO sputtering targets for thin films (e.g. Teer Coatings) or TCOs inks which can be used for printed electronics, architectural smart coatings, etc.

> The General Public
Conducting oxides are critical for solar energy panels that offer alternative energy solutions, from small-scale domestic installations to large-scale solar power stations. Thin film PV modules produce power at low cost per watt and generate consistent power, even on cloudy, overcast days and at low sun angles. With increasing fuel costs, photovoltaics (PVs) are effective at reducing fuel bills and paying back the cost of installation. Improved sustainable TCO films are a key component of these PVs in the future and their development will benefit the public, e.g. supplying electricity with a very low environmental footprint

> Government/Public Sector
The reduction of fuel costs and the development of improved TCOs will have significant impact on the public sector. With increasing legislation in place via international agreements to reduce greenhouse gases to acceptable levels the development of alternative energy, such as solar-power is clearly of great importance and will reduce the need for fossil fuels. TCO films are a critical requirement for all PV devices.

> Third Sector
More speculative beneficiaries of this research are charities and voluntary organisations. With climate change leading to more frequent weather-induced disasters, the call on voluntary aid organisations is increasing. The ability to remotely generate energy from the sun using PVs will allow energy generation in areas with no access to grid power (including disaster zones).

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Results are encouraging and the project offers the fantastic opportunity to develop new manufacturing routes towards sustainable and inexpensive high quality transparent conducting oxide films and printed tracks on float glass and plastics. These materials are used in window coatings, solar powered panels, phones and computers and micro electrode arrays.
The project presents a significant prospect for materials substitution, to replace the widely used indium, which is scarce and tin, which is expensive. We have achieved highly conductive films using both inkjet printing and aersol assisted deposition.

Our vision is to establish sustainable scaled-up routes to realise TCO materials that utilise earth abundant elements, such as titanium and zinc.

To deliver on our vision, we will be developing manufacturing methods to produce high quality TCO thin films and printed circuits using aerosol and ink delivery systems.
Exploitation Route These materials are used in window coatings, solar powered panels, phones and computers and micro electrode arrays. Developing scaled-up routes could link into all of these areas.
Sectors Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

 
Description None yet as project just started this year
 
Description ALD of Doped-Metal Oxides
Amount £60,000 (GBP)
Organisation University College London 
Department Department of Chemistry
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2014 
End 09/2017
 
Description EPSRC responsive mode
Amount £778,212 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/N01572X/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2016 
End 06/2019
 
Description EngD Studentship sponsored by NSG Pilkington
Amount £32,000 (GBP)
Organisation Pilkington Glass 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2019 
End 09/2023
 
Description Modelling studies for Sustainable Manufacturing of Transparent Conducting Oxide (TCO) Inks and Thin Films
Amount £60,000 (GBP)
Organisation University College London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2014 
End 09/2017
 
Description Sustainable Manufacturing of Transparent Conducting Oxide (TCO) Inks and Thin Films
Amount £60,000 (GBP)
Organisation University College London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2014 
End 09/2017
 
Description Sustainable Manufacturing of Transparent Conducting Oxides (TCO) Thin Films
Amount £99,784 (GBP)
Funding ID D2U 2017-20 (A. 1.22) 
Organisation University College London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2018 
End 02/2020
 
Description NSG 
Organisation Pilkington Glass
Department Pilkington Technology Centre
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Identifying precursors for use in thin film deposition of functional materials
Collaborator Contribution Testing precursors in scale rigs and completing patent on potentially commercial precursors
Impact Patent and publications as well as further investment in grants
 
Description Sustainable Manufacturing of Transparent Conducting Oxides 
Organisation AkzoNobel
Department Research, Development and Innovation
Country Netherlands 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The project represents a significant collaboration between academia and industrial sector organisations. The collaborators will provide an application context for the developments. We are working closely with industrial partners, particularly NSG (Pilkington) who are the world's largest supplier of TCO glass and have considerable interests in photovoltaic stacks. NSG have collaborated with UCL for ~20 years and have funded CASE awards etc and are well placed to commercialise developments from the project under the appropriate licensing agreements. They have the expertise and equipment to investigate scale-up. We are also working closely with our other industry partners who are interested in the development of nanoceramics for TCOs in photovoltaics as printed inks (e.g. Teer Coatings), in order to ensure that outcomes are regularly disseminated and discussed.
Collaborator Contribution All have attended regular quarterly project meetings and provided expert advice. Sun Chemical have provided expert guidance and resources to enable us to develop inks and Malvern are helping with rheology. Beer coatings have taken our sample and sputtered films. NSG provide regular input and help with the design of the scale up system as well as providing samples.
Impact None yet but the project is only part way through.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Sustainable Manufacturing of Transparent Conducting Oxides 
Organisation Malvern Instruments
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The project represents a significant collaboration between academia and industrial sector organisations. The collaborators will provide an application context for the developments. We are working closely with industrial partners, particularly NSG (Pilkington) who are the world's largest supplier of TCO glass and have considerable interests in photovoltaic stacks. NSG have collaborated with UCL for ~20 years and have funded CASE awards etc and are well placed to commercialise developments from the project under the appropriate licensing agreements. They have the expertise and equipment to investigate scale-up. We are also working closely with our other industry partners who are interested in the development of nanoceramics for TCOs in photovoltaics as printed inks (e.g. Teer Coatings), in order to ensure that outcomes are regularly disseminated and discussed.
Collaborator Contribution All have attended regular quarterly project meetings and provided expert advice. Sun Chemical have provided expert guidance and resources to enable us to develop inks and Malvern are helping with rheology. Beer coatings have taken our sample and sputtered films. NSG provide regular input and help with the design of the scale up system as well as providing samples.
Impact None yet but the project is only part way through.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Sustainable Manufacturing of Transparent Conducting Oxides 
Organisation Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The project represents a significant collaboration between academia and industrial sector organisations. The collaborators will provide an application context for the developments. We are working closely with industrial partners, particularly NSG (Pilkington) who are the world's largest supplier of TCO glass and have considerable interests in photovoltaic stacks. NSG have collaborated with UCL for ~20 years and have funded CASE awards etc and are well placed to commercialise developments from the project under the appropriate licensing agreements. They have the expertise and equipment to investigate scale-up. We are also working closely with our other industry partners who are interested in the development of nanoceramics for TCOs in photovoltaics as printed inks (e.g. Teer Coatings), in order to ensure that outcomes are regularly disseminated and discussed.
Collaborator Contribution All have attended regular quarterly project meetings and provided expert advice. Sun Chemical have provided expert guidance and resources to enable us to develop inks and Malvern are helping with rheology. Beer coatings have taken our sample and sputtered films. NSG provide regular input and help with the design of the scale up system as well as providing samples.
Impact None yet but the project is only part way through.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Sustainable Manufacturing of Transparent Conducting Oxides 
Organisation Pilkington Glass
Department Pilkington Technology Centre
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The project represents a significant collaboration between academia and industrial sector organisations. The collaborators will provide an application context for the developments. We are working closely with industrial partners, particularly NSG (Pilkington) who are the world's largest supplier of TCO glass and have considerable interests in photovoltaic stacks. NSG have collaborated with UCL for ~20 years and have funded CASE awards etc and are well placed to commercialise developments from the project under the appropriate licensing agreements. They have the expertise and equipment to investigate scale-up. We are also working closely with our other industry partners who are interested in the development of nanoceramics for TCOs in photovoltaics as printed inks (e.g. Teer Coatings), in order to ensure that outcomes are regularly disseminated and discussed.
Collaborator Contribution All have attended regular quarterly project meetings and provided expert advice. Sun Chemical have provided expert guidance and resources to enable us to develop inks and Malvern are helping with rheology. Beer coatings have taken our sample and sputtered films. NSG provide regular input and help with the design of the scale up system as well as providing samples.
Impact None yet but the project is only part way through.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Sustainable Manufacturing of Transparent Conducting Oxides 
Organisation Plasma Quest
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The project represents a significant collaboration between academia and industrial sector organisations. The collaborators will provide an application context for the developments. We are working closely with industrial partners, particularly NSG (Pilkington) who are the world's largest supplier of TCO glass and have considerable interests in photovoltaic stacks. NSG have collaborated with UCL for ~20 years and have funded CASE awards etc and are well placed to commercialise developments from the project under the appropriate licensing agreements. They have the expertise and equipment to investigate scale-up. We are also working closely with our other industry partners who are interested in the development of nanoceramics for TCOs in photovoltaics as printed inks (e.g. Teer Coatings), in order to ensure that outcomes are regularly disseminated and discussed.
Collaborator Contribution All have attended regular quarterly project meetings and provided expert advice. Sun Chemical have provided expert guidance and resources to enable us to develop inks and Malvern are helping with rheology. Beer coatings have taken our sample and sputtered films. NSG provide regular input and help with the design of the scale up system as well as providing samples.
Impact None yet but the project is only part way through.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Sustainable Manufacturing of Transparent Conducting Oxides 
Organisation Sun Chemical Ltd
Country Canada 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The project represents a significant collaboration between academia and industrial sector organisations. The collaborators will provide an application context for the developments. We are working closely with industrial partners, particularly NSG (Pilkington) who are the world's largest supplier of TCO glass and have considerable interests in photovoltaic stacks. NSG have collaborated with UCL for ~20 years and have funded CASE awards etc and are well placed to commercialise developments from the project under the appropriate licensing agreements. They have the expertise and equipment to investigate scale-up. We are also working closely with our other industry partners who are interested in the development of nanoceramics for TCOs in photovoltaics as printed inks (e.g. Teer Coatings), in order to ensure that outcomes are regularly disseminated and discussed.
Collaborator Contribution All have attended regular quarterly project meetings and provided expert advice. Sun Chemical have provided expert guidance and resources to enable us to develop inks and Malvern are helping with rheology. Beer coatings have taken our sample and sputtered films. NSG provide regular input and help with the design of the scale up system as well as providing samples.
Impact None yet but the project is only part way through.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Sustainable Manufacturing of Transparent Conducting Oxides 
Organisation Teer Coatings Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The project represents a significant collaboration between academia and industrial sector organisations. The collaborators will provide an application context for the developments. We are working closely with industrial partners, particularly NSG (Pilkington) who are the world's largest supplier of TCO glass and have considerable interests in photovoltaic stacks. NSG have collaborated with UCL for ~20 years and have funded CASE awards etc and are well placed to commercialise developments from the project under the appropriate licensing agreements. They have the expertise and equipment to investigate scale-up. We are also working closely with our other industry partners who are interested in the development of nanoceramics for TCOs in photovoltaics as printed inks (e.g. Teer Coatings), in order to ensure that outcomes are regularly disseminated and discussed.
Collaborator Contribution All have attended regular quarterly project meetings and provided expert advice. Sun Chemical have provided expert guidance and resources to enable us to develop inks and Malvern are helping with rheology. Beer coatings have taken our sample and sputtered films. NSG provide regular input and help with the design of the scale up system as well as providing samples.
Impact None yet but the project is only part way through.
Start Year 2014
 
Title Deposition process 
Description A process for depositing an inorganic material on a substrate, the process comprising, providing a substrate having a surface, providing a precursor mixture comprising a metal sulfonate, and delivering the precursor mixture to the surface of the substrate, wherein the surface of the substrate is at a substrate temperature of above 450 °C and is sufficient to effect decomposition of the metal sulfonate. The inorganic material may include a metal or a metal oxide. The preferred metal sulfonate is metal triflate. 
IP Reference WO2016132100 
Protection Patent granted
Year Protection Granted 2016
Licensed No
Impact Precursor have been identified which can be used for the deposition of a range of technologically important metal oxides
 
Description Outreach event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Opening of the KLB building at UCL with Sir David Attenborough. We have a stand showcasing our research which he and many attendees interacted with.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presentation at a workshop "Protecting Endangered Elements: 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The workshop Protecting Endangered Elements, co-chaired by Ian Duncan, MEP, and David Cole Hamilton, EuCheMS President, took place in Brussels on the 22 September 2015.

In his opening statement MEP Ian Duncan underlined the need for more political action in the field of resources and raw materials and that cooperation with scientists must be stronger. Ian Duncan mentioned the upcoming Circular Economy package as a unique opportunity to protect endangered elements.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.euchems.eu/policy-and-communication/policy-workshops/protecting-endangered-elements/