PST Sensors (Pty) Ltd is the only company in the world with proven technology to print silicon semiconductors at room temperature on any material including paper using conventional printing methods. It is positioned as a technology solutions provider and works with its par tners and customers to produce printed silicon electronics.
The company is a UCT spin-off founded in 2011, by inventors David Britton and Margit Harting and minority shareholder UCT, to commercialize what amounts to a disruptive new technology in the global electronics industry.
Industry Applications and Value Chain
Due to the unique features of this inexpensive technology, it has an infinite numbe r of possible applications with commercial potential in areas such as healthcare, medical instrumentation, veterinary, automotive, and consumer goods. There are further opportunities in the packaging, clothing, furniture, documents, flexible displays and other industries. Stand-alone companies can be built around each stage of the production chain.
PST Sensors is already non-exclusively involved with product development together with some industrial partners and is still open for more commercial partnerships and industry engagement.
The company is currently negotiating non-exclusively with global players in the USA, Japan and Norway amongst others, to develop components to be integrated into their products, such as electronic tags to monitor perishables in the food industry and the "fragile" pharmaceutical market.
A portfolio of demonstrator devices are being deployed to industry for testing, with the innovative technology demonstrating higher performance than existing technology at a radically lower cost. Prototypes include: temperature sensors, thermal imaging arrays and decorative large area temperature sensors.
Product Research & Development
The strong focus on product development by PST Sensors ensures that all the needs of a varied customer base are catered for. All devices are designed for their specific function and environment. PST Sensors works closely with the UCT NanoSciences Innovation Centre and other academic institutions, for basic nanomaterials R&D and pre-commercial prototyping.
The company is actively commercializing and promoting the worldwide adoption of printed silicon electronics by:
- engaging in customer-driven joint development projects for high volume end-user applications,
- developing new applications of the printed silicon technology,
- working with strategic partners in all areas to improve the availability and quality of the materials and processes in the printed silicon value chain (nanoparticle production, ink formulation, printing processes, integration into other products),
- small scale manufacturing for high-end, low volume specialist sensor applications, as well as evaluation devices for developers and original equipment manufacturers.
IP Patent Portfolio
The Printed Silicon Technology (PST) is protected by a strong IP portfolio of 12 patent families which cover:
- A thorough understanding of the properties required for silicon nanoparticles and methods for large scale production.
- Environmentally friendly, non-toxic, and Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS) compliant ink
- formulations, which have either a water base or natural oil base. Silicon inks are also currently being developed, using environmentally friendly, naturally derived polymers and solvents.
- Design of specific printed electronic devices and of complete circuits. PST Sensors works with its strategic partners and customers to develop all applications of printed silicon technology, as well as custom applications for integrated printed electronic temperature sensors.
- Fabrication of devices and circuits, on any substrate material, using screen printing and other printing techniques.
The main aspects of the technology were developed at the UCT NanoSciences Innovation Centre with financial support from the South African Department of Science & Technology (DST) through the former Innovation Fund.
The first applications to be commercialised under the PST Sensors brand are a range of integrated printed temperature sensing devices to monitor perishable goods. These have proven to have the fastest market entry for applications in the cold-chain handling industry which is an integral part of the supply chain management for the storage, transportation and distribution of temperature sensitive goods.
Under a joint development partnership with Thin Film ASA, Oslo, these systems will be built around a core PST technology, the printed silicon NTC thermistor, a device whose electrical resistance decreases when heated. The thermistors are unique in that temperature sensing is achieved by using negative temperature coefficient (NTC) thermistors operating with a precision of up to 0.1 0C, in three broad temperature ranges:
- Environmental: -40°C to +50°C (-40°F to +120°F),
- Cryogenic: -263°C to +27°C (10 K to 300 K)
- High temperature: 50°C - 250°C (120°F - 500°F)
This device allows individual packages can be examined to ensure that contents are maintained at safe or optimal temperatures
In a 2012 press release, Thin Film stated that "The combination of Thin Film printed addressable rewritable memory products and complementary organic circuits, together with a PST temperature sensor creates a new category of integrated system - inexpensive, intelligent and able to offer information on temperature on a per item basis - something not currently possible due to manufacturing and material cost restrictions. These alarm systems, as thin as a strand of hair, will inform health care professionals and fresh food consumers alike and potentially reduce the 1.27 billion tons of food currently wasted globally. Seven of the top 10 global pharma products in 2014 will require cold-chain handling in a market which was estimated at $6.9 billion. This is a classic illustration of how low cost electronics can be mass-produced in high volumes for a fraction of the cost of standard silicon microelectronics.
PST Sensors Promotions and Awards
In 2012, PST Sensors maintained its strong presence at the annual IDTechEx Printed Electronic USA Conference and Trade Show, Santa Clara CA. The company has already received a number of academic and industry awards.
- 2011 Best in Show' Award at Printed Electronics USA Conference, Silicon Valley.
- 2010 Academic R&D Award at Printed Electronics Europe Conference, Dresden.
Press release: Rainier Communications: at www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/24/idUS33816+24-Jan-2012+BW20120124 http://www.eetimes.com/design/industrial-control/4403807/Thin-Film-demos-printed-sensor-system [link not working/outdated]