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U.S. gov't backs printed electronics

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:printed electronics? electric vehicle? fuel efficiency?

The U.S. government has shown its commitment to advancing the country's electronics capabilities through the millions worth of grants that would enable the progress toward cleaner and more efficient vehicles, film technologies and electric motors.

Beyond the growing programs at universities and government research centers, the support for printed electronics is apparent in military and electric vehicle (EV) development. The U.S. Army reflects this through its printing capabilities and prototype development for U.S. Army applications and the other in write approaches to nanoscale electronics.

Governments and industry have committed $60 billion to EV programs in the last two years. New initiatives keep being announced for both hybrid and pure EVs. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently announced more than $175 million in the next three to five years to accelerate the development and deployment of advanced vehicle technologies. The funding will support 40 projects across 15 states and will help improve fuel efficiency of next generation vehicles. The projects will target innovations including better fuels and lubricants, lighter weight materials, longer-lasting and cheaper EV batteries and components, and more efficient engine technologies.

The president announced historic fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks that will bring fuel efficiency to 54.5mpg that will save American families $1.7 trillion at the pump and reduce oil consumption by 12 billion barrels by 2025. The administration also announced fuel efficiency standards for work trucks, buses and other heavy-duty vehicles that will save American businesses about $50 billion in fuel costs over the life of the program mainly through hybrid EVs.

The funds will leverage additional investments by the grantees to support projects totaling more than $300 million and will focus on eight approaches to improving vehicle efficiency, three of them involving printed electronics.

The first involves the development of advanced cells and design technology for electric drive batteries. Twelve projects awarded to develop high energy or high power batteries for EVs that should significantly exceed existing modern technologies in terms of performance and/or cost. Traction batteries constitute up to 60 percent of the cost of an EV. Replacement of the battery when it fails may be uneconomic, causing the vehicle to be disposed of early, the opposite of a green initiative.

The second subject supported that involves printed electronics is advanced power electronics and electric motor technology. Four projects awarded to develop the next generation of power inverters and electric motors to meet demanding performance targets while achieving significant cost reductions.

Thirdly, the support for thermoelectric and enabling engine technology is all about thin film technology. Here, three sub-projects are awarded to improve fuel efficiency of thermoelectric devices to convert engine waste heat to electricity and to reduce emissions.

According to the IDTechEx report, "Printed, Organic & Flexible Electronics Forecasts, Players & Opportunities 2011-2021", the printed electronics business is set to be over $55 billion in ten years and around $300 billion in twenty years as the familiar exponential kicks in. The early wins include photovoltaics and some consumer novelties and packaging enhancements. Another early success has been value engineering conventional electronic products such as LCD flat screen TV by replacing several complex layers with one printed layer.

Expect photovoltaics to be the single largest sector of printed electronics in 2021. That includes work on flexible and stretchable photovoltaics around and even under EVs because they will be harvesting infrared as well as visible light. Using three or four forms of printed energy harvesting for an EV, including smart textiles, will substantially increase their range, functionality and green credentials, rapidly advancing solar charging stations for EVs.

- Peter Harrop

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