Transparent and Bendable Conductive Film (tentative name) currently being developed by Murata Manufacturing (hereinafter "Murata") combines transparency, flexibility, conductivity, and safety. It is also a material with excellent workability. This means it has great hidden potential to be applied. Unlocking those strong points makes it possible to produce innovative devices that have a high affinity with situations in life and society as sought in the Internet of Things (IoT) era. In the application image part of this article, we introduce the potential of the applications hidden in Transparent and Bendable Conductive Film as currently envisioned by Murata and what we are seeking to achieve with our application creation partners by considering near-future device and business mega-trends based on the strong points of the new material we looked at in the technical explanation part.
Signs have appeared that the paradigm (the cornerstone of development) of electrical and electronic devices will change dramatically. There is a need for innovative technologies that support the evolution of electronic devices in this new era.
We looked at the strong points of the new Transparent and Bendable Conductive Film (tentative name) material being developed by Murata with the hidden potential to bring about innovation in the electrical and electronic industries and its unique features as a material.
However, Naruse has the following to say: "The true value of Transparent and Bendable Conductive Film is not its improvement in the functions and performance of existing applications. I believe the reason for this material's existence is the creation of applications that can only be realized with it." Those applications do not necessarily have to be electrical and electronic devices or their components. In the application image part of this article, we introduce the thoughts of Murata at the present time regarding the new value given to applications by Transparent and Bendable Conductive Film.
An Era When There Was a Need for Components to Integrate Multiple Functions into a Single Device
What kind of electrical and electronic devices and industrial products will be needed in the near future? What kind of new technologies will be required to produce them? Let's take a look back at the evolution in the field of computers and other information devices to think about the paradigm shift that is currently occurring.
Computers have evolved based on downsizing from when they were invented to the present day. Advanced processing that could previously only be executed on large general-purpose machines can now be done on workstations, PCs, and even smartphones. This downsizing has transformed computers into even less expensive and easier-to-handle devices. Those applications have expanded from military and scientific research to business and familiar situations in life such as shopping and entertainment.
The history of the evolution of information devices based on downsizing is also one in which electrical and electronic functions that had a separate existence were integrated into a single device. For example, today's smartphones are not simply an evolved form of the telephone; rather they have reached their present form by incorporating one after another the functions that once belonged to appointment books, electronic dictionaries, books, cameras, audio-visual players, TVs, games machines, wallets, and other applications. There has been a demand in this process for the downsizing and increased performance of components to realize those individual functions.
Koyanagi, who is involved in materials development, says the following: "Murata has carried out development up to now with a focus on components that can contribute to the reduction in size and weight of electrical and electronic devices starting with our materials technologies. Transparent and Bendable Conductive Film will provide different value from the materials that Murata has traditionally handled."
To an Era When Technologies to Incorporate Electrical and Electronic Functions into Diverse Things Are Required
The IoT era is coming. This is an era when we will see the realization of even more efficient social activities and even more affluent life by connecting all things to networks to exchange information with each other. Digital transformation (DX) in various life settings and diverse businesses and industries is already being promoted in anticipation of this era.
It is necessary to give electrical and electronic functions to things that were previously unrelated to electrical and electronic technologies in order to connect all things to a network and to then collect and utilize information in diverse locations. Of course, components that contribute to a reduction in size and weight will continue to be sought at that time in the same way as with electrical and electronic devices up to now. In fact, smartwatches require components that are smaller and lighter than those for smartphones to use watches in the IoT. That is so it is possible to embed electrical and electronic functions without changing the size and shape of the watches.
However, that does not mean it is possible to embed electrical and electronic functions into all things just with smaller and more lightweight components. For example, there is a trend to develop IoT devices called "smart wear." This smart wear incorporates sensors and a function to externally transmit information into clothing to monitor the wearer's health condition in real time in everyday life. It is not possible to say there is a high affinity between clothing and existing components for electrical and electronic devices. Components are foreign objects to people. It may not be possible to lead life naturally wearing clothing with foreign objects added. The technology to create components different from existing technologies will be necessary. That technology will need to be able to incorporate electrical and electronic functions into existing clothing while erasing its presence without fuss. It may be possible to meet such needs by utilizing the strong points of Transparent and Bendable Conductive Film.
Adding Electrical and Electronic Functions in a Discreet and Non-obtrusive Way
There is a technology called "printed electronics." This serves as a technology for an approach that incorporates electrical and electronic functions without fuss while maintaining the shape and usability of the tools, devices, and equipment that already exist. This is a technology that draws electronic functions on the surface of existing tools, devices, and equipment with ink that has electronic functions like conductors, semiconductors, dielectrics, and more. Transparent and Bendable Conductive Film, which combines strong points such as transparency, flexibility, and conductivity at a high level, seems to have a suitability that is difficult to replace with other materials for application to printed electronics.
It should go without saying that possessing conductivity is necessary for materials to add electrical and electronic functions to existing tools, devices, equipment, and things worn by people. The additional functions blend seamlessly into the surrounding environment without any sense of discomfort on the part of the user by utilizing the transparent properties possessed by Transparent and Bendable Conductive Film in addition to conductivity. For instance, it may be possible to make books and other items that can be used even more conveniently by superimposing some kind of electrical and electronic functions onto paper that records information with pictures and words. Furthermore, it will be possible to add functions without interfering with the movement of things and people by flexibly utilizing the new material's strong point of bending without sacrificing functionality.
This new material also possesses safety that does not adversely affect living bodies. This means it may be suitable for application to wearable devices that are used in constant contact with the skin of people and implant devices that continue to be used without being removed after they are inserted into people’s bodies. This material does not contain substances that adversely affect the environment even after its disposal. Therefore, it seems this new material may also be applied to disposable devices and other products that are used once and then thrown away.
Considering these strong points and the value it may be possible to produce from them, Transparent and Bendable Conductive Film may actually be more suitable to fields such as food, agriculture, logistics, medicine and medical devices, art, fashion, entertainment, and sports than the existing electrical and electronic field where progress has continued based on downsizing.
At the same time, it may be possible to expand the range of things to which electrical and electronic functions are added by utilizing this new material's high workability, which allows you to draw circuit patterns with diverse methods such as inkjet printers, stamp and screen printing, spray coating, and pen drawing under normal temperature and pressure environments. It may also be possible to easily add electrical and electronic functions to toothbrushes and other similar everyday items, stationery, furniture, structures, and more.
Murata Wants to Work on Value Creation Together with Those from Different Fields as A Partner
Currently, Murata is steadily proceeding with preparations for mass production in anticipation of making practical use of Transparent and Bendable Conductive Film. We are considering applying it to electronic components like electromagnetic wave shields as the first application. We will do this by utilizing the strong points of Transparent and Bendable Conductive Film, which can even be used to coat devices with all kinds of housing shapes. However, this is just the first step in the application of Transparent and Bendable Conductive Film.
Of course, we cannot proceed with the development of Transparent and Bendable Conductive Film applications with only the power of Murata alone in areas outside of electronic components. Naruse tells us the following: "If we search for applications just within Murata, there will be a tendency to stay within the boundaries of electronic components. We want to unlock the potential capacities of this new Transparent and Bendable Conductive Film material that hides new possibilities. To do that, I feel it is essential to have opportunities to be able to speak with companies and people in different fields who have had no connection with electronic components until now." In fact, we are discussing the possibility of applying this new material with people in the food industry, agriculture, logistics, medical device, entertainment, fashion, and art fields.
All kinds of different businesses and industries are forging ahead with DX initiatives. There are many people seeking the creation of products and services with new value. Even if you do not have knowledge or experience in electricity and electronics, if you have an interest in the strong point of Transparent and Bendable Conductive Film, please feel free to talk with us without hesitation. We will take on the challenge of developing new applications and creating innovation together with our partners by utilizing the knowledge and skills in material, process, and device development that only Murata can provide.