AZ Electronic Materials (“AZ”), a leading global producer and supplier of high-quality, high-purity specialty chemicals to the semiconductor and flat panel display industries, and William Marsh Rice University (“Rice”), a world-leading research university, announced today that they have entered into licensing and sponsored research agreements in the field of graphene nanoribbons (GNRs) for application to electronic and advanced optical devices.
Novel carbon allotropes like carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and GNRs have drawn the increased attention of the scientific community and the electronics industry as potential new routes to transparent electrical conductors. In addition, a number of industrial applications have also been identified for these new carbon forms. It is expected that the use of carbon materials in electronics will dramatically increase in coming years, most prominently where flexibility and cost are key factors, such as in flexible displays.
Under the licensing agreement, AZ will gain exclusive world-wide rights to several patent families invented by Dr. James Tour and his working group at Rice, covering preparation methods and application of GNRs. Dr. Tour’s technology provides potentially lower-cost routes to make functionalized GNRs from commercially available carbon sources such as CNTs. Dr. Tour’s method of reductively opening CNTs to provide high quality, highly conductive GNRs also provides an easy and versatile way of chemically functionalizing them at their edges. This modification leads to greatly enhanced stability of coating formulations without deteriorating GNR performance. This allows the GNRs to be formulated in solvents common to electronic device manufacturing processes, which can be coated on substrates by industry-known methods. Additionally, AZ has licensed Dr. Tour’s high-yield approaches to graphene oxide, another graphene derivative with wide-ranging materials applicability.
Under the sponsored research agreement, AZ will support the work done in Dr. Tour’s laboratories at Rice to investigate ways to further improve the conductive properties of various GNR forms, and to explore various methods to formulate and cast the resulting materials into workable films. The sponsored research will complement the internal program AZ has initiated on GNRs and related materials at its US facility in Branchburg, NJ. The underlying basic research work on GNRs in Dr. Tour’s laboratory has been primarily supported by the Department of Defense through the Office of Naval Research and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
Geoff Wild, AZ’s Chief Executive Officer, commented: “Our collaboration with Rice and specifically Dr. Tour’s team provides AZ with the opportunity to bring new material solutions to our customers to help create the next generation of electronic devices. Rice’s innovative materials science approaches coupled with AZ’s industry-leading formulation and scale-up capabilities, plus our global presence supporting the key display manufacturing infrastructure, will bring novel carbon-type solutions to the flexible display industry.”
“We are excited about the partnership with AZ to capitalize upon the developments of graphene-related technologies developed in our laboratory,” Dr. Tour said. “With AZ’s expertise in specialty chemicals for electronic and optoelectronic applications, the transition from the Rice laboratory to commercial products will now be realized.”
Head of Investor Relations
AZ Electronic Materials
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AZ is a leading global producer and supplier of high-quality, high-purity specialty chemical materials, operating in the high-growth electronics market. Its materials are used in integrated circuits and devices, flat panel displays, LEDs and photolithographic printing. AZ is a critical partner to the leading global electronic players because our chemical technology allows them to enhance existing processes and enables them to innovate new products. This is critically important in the “digital world” where there is increasing global demand and a drive towards smaller, faster, more powerful and less expensive technology. AZ operates in ten countries, namely China, India, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, the USA, France and Germany. It also has corporate and administrative offices in Luxembourg, the UK and Hong Kong, and employs over 1,000 people globally.
William Marsh Rice University is a leading research university with a distinctive commitment to undergraduate education and pathbreaking research, unsurpassed teaching and contributions to the betterment of our world. It seeks to fulfill this mission by cultivating a diverse community of learning and discovery that produces leaders across the spectrum of human endeavor.
James M. Tour is the T. T. and W. F. Chao Professor of Chemistry and a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Rice University in Houston, TX. He joined the Richard E. Smalley Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice University in 1999. Tour’s scientific research areas include nanoelectronics, graphene electronics and graphene photovoltaics. Dr. Tour has over 450 research publications and over 50 patents.