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World's First Completely Transparent IC 225

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the other-researchers-will-see-right-through-this dept.
An anonymous reader writes "DeviceForge is reporting that researchers at Oregon State University claim to have created the worlds first 'completely transparent' ICs (integrated circuit) from inorganic compounds. From the article: 'The technology can enable extremely inexpensive electronics for use in "throw away" devices, and is expected to be used in automobile windshields, cell phones, TVs, games, and toys, among other applications, OSU said. OSU also believes that the technology might result in more efficient solar cells or improvements and LCD displays (liquid crystal displays), it said.'"
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World's First Completely Transparent IC

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  • Whoa (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 20, 2006 @09:13PM (#14961249)
    I didn't see that coming.
    • Re:Whoa (Score:2, Informative)

      by bosabilene (655365)
      This is an old story being rehashed. The story broke at least 6 months ago. They use aluminum oxide to print the circuit boards. It can be done at near room temperatures, thus dramatically reducing the cost of making the integrated circuits. Aluminum oxide is one the cheapest materials available.
  • Cool (Score:2, Funny)

    by Eightyford (893696)
    Cool, an icy IC.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 20, 2006 @09:15PM (#14961256)
    Nothing to see here, please move along
  • They are Isolinear Chips. :-D
  • Eye IC (Score:4, Funny)

    by x2A (858210) on Monday March 20, 2006 @09:15PM (#14961263)
    tiny little display in my contact lenses would be cool! Could be powered by tears...
  • Utility? (Score:3, Funny)

    by cataclyst (849310) on Monday March 20, 2006 @09:16PM (#14961266) Homepage
    What are the possible... oh, I C...
  • ARG!! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by forand (530402) on Monday March 20, 2006 @09:16PM (#14961268) Homepage
    Okay you know that it is Liquid Crystal Display but you say LCD Displays! Come on editors someone should have caught that and changed it so it doesn't look so bad.
  • wahey! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Turn-X Alphonse (789240) on Monday March 20, 2006 @09:19PM (#14961279) Journal
    What world are these people living in!? Mobile phones and a TV is not "throw away", a good TV will last 10-20 years if not more. Why would anyone in their right mind pay the price of a TV and considerit disaposable?
    • Re:wahey! (Score:5, Funny)

      by x2A (858210) on Monday March 20, 2006 @09:21PM (#14961287)
      ...because there's so much crap on tv these days, it's difficult to not throw it away! ;-)
    • Re:wahey! (Score:4, Informative)

      by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday March 20, 2006 @09:52PM (#14961427) Journal
      "a good TV will last 10-20 years if not more"

      We should be so lucky. A company that produces TVs that last that long isn't maximizing its profits. My Sharp TV was bought the day of the Challenger explosion, and is on its last legs. I would have been happy if it had lasted 10 years, and would have bought another Sharp, most likely. Anecdotal, sure -- but Sharp lost a sale by making a good TV.

      Consumer electronics are engineered to last only a couple/few years past the warranty period -- keep the customer just satisfied enough, while ensuring they are still buying those TVs.

      Re: whether people consider them disposable -- well, lots of people are happy to pay $30 a month for their TV. After they've paid it off, they're quite happy to upgrade to a bigger, newer TV for $30 a month. And chances are, they'll need to within a year or two.
      • I know what you're saying and it's a shame.

        The lady who used to live nextdoor to me died about ten years ago, she gave me her TV in her will. It lasted me untill last year and I'll be damned if it wasn't 20 years old by then.

        So not all TV's die fast.. We just forgot about quality when we mass produced crap and charged 4 times more.
      • Not to be picky but the Challenger disaster ocurred on January 28, 1986 [wikipedia.org]. Ergo your TV has lasted almost 20 years.
      • While the rest of us were mourning, you went out and bought a new TV? For shame!
      • Did they really lose a Sale?
        you say you would buy from them again
        you probably bought other sharp equipment due to a good prior experience. you also might already have recommended sharp as a good brand to buy.
        People reading your comment may buy a Sharp Tv, knowing you have had a good experience with Sharp products.

        Incidentally I don't tend to look at brand names but I have a sharp vcr. I bought this new so long ago I don't remember maybe mid 90's its never had a problem in all that time it just works.

        Sharp m
      • by SW6 (140530)
        We should be so lucky. A company that produces TVs that last that long isn't maximizing its profits. My Sharp TV was bought the day of the Challenger explosion, and is on its last legs. I would have been happy if it had lasted 10 years, and would have bought another Sharp, most likely. Anecdotal, sure -- but Sharp lost a sale by making a good TV.

        I bought a second-hand Sony telly for fifty quid back in 1994; it was made the year before. It still works as well as the day it was made.

        I'd never buy another

    • Re:wahey! (Score:5, Informative)

      by scdeimos (632778) on Monday March 20, 2006 @09:52PM (#14961428)

      You've never worked in a repair/servicing industry, have you?

      Mobile phones and TV's are extremely throw-away nowadays. Have you ever tried to have one repaired? Particularly with "name brand" TV's like Somy (typo intended) the cost of spare parts is so high (read: whole boards/modules, not single components) that it is generally cheaper to throw the product away and replace it with a cheaper up-to-date version. Common thought seems to be that spare parts prices are artificially inflated to improve new sales turnover.

      Funny as it seems, the cheaper TV's coming from Chinese manufacturers are much more repairable because (a) schematic diagrams are more available *and* cheaper, and (b) they use less proprietary components which are easier to obtain.

      • I -have- worked in the repair/service industry - 70-odd TVs in total, just as part of an internship. That was some 6 years ago. Here's the deal...

        Let's say somebody brings in a TV which doesn't work anymore, or just flips out after being on for a while. What's the likely cause? Bad solder joint - typically around one of the FETs or around the HV transformer. Easy enough to fix - open up the casing, unplug the wires, slide the board out, re-solder all joints (when one fails, more fail, and you don't want
        • I'm not an electrician, but it sounds like when the colour/brightness/whatever-general-output-that-par t-of-the-circuit-regulates changes dramatically then something messes up..? Hehe.. well didn't know TVs could be that temperamental.
    • Re:wahey! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by kebes (861706) on Monday March 20, 2006 @10:19PM (#14961532) Journal
      Well the idea with disposable electronics/devices is that the manufacturing is cheaper and the end devices cost so little that they are disposable. The 'dream' of those working on these devices is that they become so cheap that they replace things like billboards and flyers and so forth. Basically you can hand out "disposable paper-thin TVs" on the street as advertising. Many consumers like the idea of being able to easily replace their devices. (TV doesn't quite fit the new decor of your living room? Just throw it out and buy a new one...) I think it's pretty obvious that there will be a consumer demand for cheaper, disposable devices.

      What worries me much more is the obvious environmental impact. Society has made some progress over the last decade to be more "environmentally friendly" yet new directions like this one just push us ever further towards a fully "disposable society."
    • Because if you can't see your invisible mobile phone with a dead battery you'll lose it, then you'll have to buy a new one.
      • I was going to make a comment about it likely having funky flashing lights, but dead battery.. hmm.. that is a dilemma :o people will be scouring on the floor trying to find their phone/PDA (/laptop/desktop? err maybe not) just like they have to do now with contact lenses..

        on a random side thought.. dynamic stained glass windows.. cool :)

    • "2nd hand electronics sales will soon be illegal in Japan"

      http://www.akihabaranews.com/news-11230-X.html [akihabaranews.com]

  • See through .. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by karvind (833059) <karvind@NOsPAM.gmail.com> on Monday March 20, 2006 @09:21PM (#14961288) Journal
    Very cool indeed. I have worked on glass substrates for TFT related applications in my grad studies. I tell you one thing, it is very hard to tell which side is up and which side is down. Many times in the beginning I had put the wafer upside down just to find out it didn't deposit certain thing or etch on the right side. Finally I managed to put a visible mark which would only read correct from one side and got around. Now if you make transparent ICs, how do you go about aligning one layer to another in lithography (common step in IC fabrication). I hope they don't make transparent ICs on transparent substrates - that would be quite a fun.
    • Maybe it's only transparent to visible light? Would it be possible that the ICs would be visible in UV light?
      • That's what I was thinking, or IR light. There are a lot less transparent substances in the UV and IR than in the visible because of basic materials properties. That's what places I've worked with have done when they had to line up transparent lithography stacks for deep UV photolith.
    • I would assume you put a visible registration mark on a section of substrate that's unused (say.. the back perhaps?) or some kind of removeable holder.
  • transparent aluminum. Eventually, we'll be able to build Wonder Woman's invisible airplane.

    Weeeee!

  • Transparent? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday March 20, 2006 @09:23PM (#14961296) Journal
    They looked translucent to me (of course, I have no idea how the slides were prepared in the pics, and whether they indicate the working product).

    I'm also curious as to

    I'm curious as to how much heat these suckers will generate -- the obvious 'transparent' uses would, I imagine, need them to be encased in glass or protective transparent cases. The windshield mentioned, for example -- how quickly would heat build to the point of damaging the IC?

    My second question is why these ICs would be any better than opaque ICs for throwaway use? Are they cheaper to manufacture, even scaled to billions of chips? Aren't normal ICs pretty maskable with film coverings?

    Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are applications where this could be very useful, but I'm not sure that even if development is completed, there would ever be enough demand to make these useful for anything other than niche applications.

    Then again, 512k should be enough memory for anyone, and there will never be a market for more than five computers in the US.
    • Re:Transparent? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak (669689)

      I'm curious as to how much heat these suckers will generate -- the obvious 'transparent' uses would, I imagine, need them to be encased in glass or protective transparent cases. The windshield mentioned, for example -- how quickly would heat build to the point of damaging the IC?

      If they're using it in windshields, the chip's heat output is the last thing they have to worry about.

      The very first thing that they're going to have to engineer around is the chip's ability to withstand a constant barrage of UV rad

      • The heat output of the chips is very relevant -- glass isn't the best conductor, and heat output will exacerbate ambient heat problems.

        How about freezing in the winter? How will the chips deal with expansion and contraction, will they do so at the same rate as the glass, or are you asking for seasonal degradation of the chips?
        • Automotive safey glass is a laminate with a layer of flexible plastic in the middle. The plastic is designed to stretch so placing an IC in that layer shouldn't present any problem. Can't say about the heat issue though.
          • Either way, you've got a rigid IC in a stretching layer, with the problems that entails. Unless they can make an IC that works even when stretched and contracted multiple times, in which case I think that's a bigger development than a transparent IC.
    • Then again, 512k should be enough memory for anyone, and there will never be a market for more than five computers in the US.

      What's with this obsession about mispredictions of the past? 500 gig hard-drives go for $450 and my family owns at least 5 personal computers (Wintel, Lintel, and Mac).

      Don't underestimate the future. If you do, hindsight will catch up to you. It's your job then to keep it. Last time I checked IBM and Microsoft are doing quite well.

      • I stated in my OP that I couldn't see a huge demand for these things except for niche products -- I referenced the past mispredictions in order to state that I could very well be wrong, and these things might be ubiquitous in a generation.
    • Re:Transparent? (Score:2, Informative)

      by konkani (761433)
      Yes they are transparent! Check out this picture:
      http://www.deviceforge.com/files/misc/osu-transpar ent-electronics-team-big.jpg [deviceforge.com]
    • The windshield mentioned, for example -- how quickly would heat build to the point of damaging the IC?

      I wasn't speeding officer. I was "air cooling" my windshield IC.

      Of course the far more l33t Brits and folks from the state of Washington would all have watercooled versions but we can't all be that l33t.
    • "I'm curious as to how much heat these suckers will generate"

      Well... it depends what you want to do with it. If you wanted to try and make a high speed general processor then it could kick out some heat, but that's probably not it's intended purpose (at least at this point in time). Most IC's don't need to worry about heat... digital watches don't have heatsinks.
      • "Most IC's don't need to worry about heat... digital watches don't have heatsinks."

        Digital watches' ICs also aren't sandwiched between two panes of low-heat-conductive material that sit in the hot sun, either. I dunno if the small amount of additional heat would cross some threshold, though -- but the article did point out that these ICs run much hotter than normal ICs (with the current tech, anyway).
        • "but the article did point out that these ICs run much hotter than normal ICs"

          It does? Is there another page that I can't see? Or is it cryptic?
    • Then again, 512k should be enough memory for anyone, and there will never be a market for more than five computers in the US.

      I thought 512k wasn't necessarily enough memory.... Some people might want to use 640k.
    • from the first paragraph in TFA:

      "The technology can enable extremely inexpensive electronics for use in "throw away" devices"

      so yes that shows that they will be cheaper to manufacture, and yes as you scale up, things always get cheaper (per final product) as it's cheaper to keep producing the same thing, than to re-tool to produce a different item.
      • Well, first, they make no claim of being cheaper to mfr than traditional ICs.

        Second, until it's scaled up, the price will be more expensive than traditional ICs. As you say, "it's cheaper to keep producing the same thing, than to re-tool to produce a different item."

        So why retool to use these chips when standard chips will work fine for most applications?
        • Obviously the chips wouldnt be used for 'most applications' that we have today, where you never even see the internals of a device anyway, but they could be use for either novelty items like an almost completely transparent iPod/phone/whatever (I'm guessing everything but the battery could be transparent), or very useful things like displays on a car windshield like the article mentions (though you could do the same thing with the HUD technology they use in 'planes). I'm sure people will come up with very u
  • Could transparent ICs be stacked, using a form of optics to communicate between the layers, to create 3-D arrays of ICs? Heat might be too much of a problem, I don't know I'm no engineer, but perhaps it could be emmersed in some sort of coolant. Anyone know if this kind of thing could be done or if there is something far more sophisticated that they could link?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 20, 2006 @09:37PM (#14961353)
    My first thought on reading this is that there might be significant espionage applications for this kind of thing.
  • by SEWilco (27983)
    the technology might result in more efficient solar cells or improvements and LCD displays

    ...and fusion power within ten years.

  • Give me my HUD (Score:3, Interesting)

    by amliebsch (724858) on Monday March 20, 2006 @09:42PM (#14961372) Journal
    I'm crossing my fingers that this might eventually result in a transparent LED. Think of the display possibilities!
  • by StikyPad (445176) on Monday March 20, 2006 @09:48PM (#14961406) Homepage


     


     

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Monday March 20, 2006 @09:50PM (#14961417) Homepage Journal
    Sharp did this a while ago with a Z80 core.

    http://www.z80.info/sharp/z80_glas.htm [z80.info]
  • It's "translucent", not transparent.

    Anyway, the base of the circuitry (what it's printed on), is simply glass. No big deal there (they've been doing that for a while). The circuitry itself isn't tranparent anyway.
    • Re:Terminology (Score:5, Informative)

      by Kennric (22093) on Monday March 20, 2006 @11:12PM (#14961707) Homepage
      No, it's transparent. The circuitry itself is transparent - a lot of research has gone into developing semiconductors with the correct band structure to pass most of the visible spectrum but still act as semiconductors. Translucency generally refers to materials that disperse light, rendering images blurry or unrecognisable, while transparent materials maintain the integrity of the transmitted image, even if dimmed or colored. (Your semantics may vary.)

      These circuits are indeed made from transparent (over a wide range of the visible spectrum) semiconductors, and they are indeed printed on glass. I am not involved with the research, but I know Dr. Wager, whose team developed the circuits, and I know a few of the physicists who developed the actual materials used. Very neat stuff.
       
  • LCD displays (liquid crystal displays)
    So much redundant, repeated information in one redundant, repetitive place.

    Please, ScuttleMonkey, just say no to RAS Syndrome [wikipedia.org]!

  • Summary (Score:3, Funny)

    by MANYplaces84 (853635) on Monday March 20, 2006 @10:00PM (#14961460) Homepage
    Nothing to see here please move along...
  • Skeptical (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JBEdgeworth (962496) on Monday March 20, 2006 @10:17PM (#14961527)
    I, for one, am skeptical about OSU's research with regards to the IC's utility in the field of conventional electron-beam lithography. To engrave features onto the IC at a sub-micrometre level, how would the substrate of the IC, with its importunate properties of inelasticity, respond to the photomasks at 193nm? What would become of the mass production of these compounds? I'm not saying the article is wholly without merit, but I remain a little skeptical about the IC's practical uses in production.
  • Great for throwaway devices? So, naturally, they've put plenty of work into minimizing the environmental effects of this? ...right?

    • Q: So, naturally, they've put plenty of work into minimizing the environmental effects of this?

      A: No, they, they haven't because not many people really give a shit.

      Note: I the preceding does not imply a position on whether or not they should [give a shit].

  • I just couldn't figure out where to attach the wires.
  • by hitmark (640295)
    when can i have glasses with buildt in display that can talk to my pda-phone?
  • yeah, right (Score:4, Funny)

    by pintomp3 (882811) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @12:58AM (#14962032)
    i'll believe it when i see it..

  • It almost never fails when assessing claims for a new technology to look at the list of proposed applications. You get a pretty darn good "humbug" feeling long before you dig into the technical details, which are invariably thin on the ground. The other fabulous telltale is "commercial applications in five years". "Five years" is venture capital speak for "we have no clue". "Ten years" is primary science speak for "I've been cited three times already".

    99 inventions out of a hundred that promise the moon
  • Windshields??? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jamesh (87723) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @02:00AM (#14962171)
    So instead of tucking away the electronics in a relatively secure place in your car (it's not like there isn't room), you stick it in the great big piece of breakable glass in the front of the car, which is expensive enough to replace anyway? And have you ever fitted a windscreen to a car? Lining up the contacts would be a btich.

    There are lots of places where transparent electronics could really improve a product, but I don't think a car windshield is one of them (unless you are talking HUD, but there are better ways of achieving that anyway so i assume you aren't)
  • by kninja (121603) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @03:08AM (#14962313)
    This guy is a professor of Electrical Engineering, and yet is quoted as saying:


    "This is a quantum leap in moving transparent electronics from the laboratory toward working commercial applications"


    I hope the journalist just spiced up the quote - because most professors wouldn't be caught dead saying something like that.

  • I was kind of expecting the 'transparent aluminum' from Star Trek only applied to integrated circuits. This isn't something you'd want smatterd right in the middle of your windsheild - wtf?
    • Agreed. Especially if the headline contains the pointless "completely." I'd expect something "completely transparent" to be, well, invisible.

      I suppose it will also "literally make you explode with excitement when you see it in action."

      Ahhh, I remember when words meant things, and you could read some text and know what the text was describing. Now words just fill space, but I guess that's what an advertising-driven news site is about.

  • First transparent aluminum... now this! I know you're among us, Scotty! Beam me up, damn you!!
  • by billybob (18401)
    Hey, I know the girl on the very left in this pic! [deviceforge.com] Just kinda weird... :)
  • The IC's are doped with transparent aluminum.

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