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April 6th, 2012

AGC’s investment in US nanolithography startup reveals plans for nanostructured value-added glass strategy

Published on April 6th, 2012 | By: pwray@ceramics.org

Rolith’s rolling lithographic exposure technology. Credit: Rolith; AGC.

A wholly owned Georgia-based subsidiary, of glassmaker AGC — AGC America — a few days ago announced that it had purchased a $2 million stake in Rolith Inc., clearly aimed at developing new glass products with specialized nano coatings.

Rolith, based in Pleasanton, Calif., specializes in advanced, large-scale nano coatings. According to Rolith’s website, its “manufacturing technology employs [a] massively parallel patterning scheme easily scalable to large areas of rigid substrate materials (plates and panels) and rolls of flexible films on roll-to-roll mode.” The company says its “rolling mask” nanolithography method will permit the continuous printing of structures with resolution to 50 nanometers.

Rolith’s competitive advantage seem to be that it has perfected near-field optical lithographies applied to cylindrical masks. I am sure that from AGC’s viewpoint, the technology will allow them to ramp up applications that require industrial-scale deposition of nano-sized functional materials.

Indeed, AGC says in a news release, “Emerging technologies for the formation of nanostructures on glass surfaces are one of the newest ways deriving from glass surface processing technologies to develop high-performance, multi-functional glass.”

Specific future products are not discussed, but AGC mentions that it is looking at electronics, solar power, automotives and architecture applications. It also says that AGC will continue its own internal research on coating technologies.

Rolith, however, raises some interesting possible glass applications. In the solar energy field, it suggests “low-cost nanostructured solar cells, light absorption enhancement layers, advanced anti-reflective and self-cleaning coatings and transparent conductive oxide solar glasses. For other fields, Rolith mentions low-E glass, and glass with anti-icing and anti-glare coatings.

A story on the OLED Research Net website reports Rolith’s technology roadmap has the company scaling up its rolling mask lithography method to one-meter-wide substrates later in 2012 and up to three-meter-wide substrates in a conveyor mode “in next 2 years.”

ARPA-E tapped Rolith to showcase its technology at the agency’s 2011 Energy Innovation Summit. The company’s website indicates that at least three of the company’s core “team members” have significant materials and engineering backgrounds, including Mark Brongersma (a Rolith cofounder), associate professor in materials science and engineering at Stanford Univ.; Jay Guo, associate professor of electronics engineering and computer science at the Univ. of Michigan; and Paul Braun, professor of materials science and engineering at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


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