A global market and technology leader for liquid crystals (LC), Merck hopes to leverage the University of Leeds’ know-how for non-display applications (such as switchable contact lenses) to build prototypes of innovative optical applications beyond displays.
Merck will invest £ 1.0 million in its collaboration with the University of Leeds. The partners view digital eyeglasses, switchable contact lenses, virtual-reality glasses, and other optical instruments as an interesting growth market, but they also plan to develop new applications for controlling lighting in homes and cars as well as sensors.
While Merck is intensifying its research activities in LC materials with high birefringence for optical use, the University of Leeds will use its expertise and state-of-the-art facilities to conduct feasibility studies and develop prototypes of the devices. The assumed goal is to jointly apply for patents for such applications.
“This exciting research collaboration reflects our determination to develop real-world solutions from science and engineering research. Our university has a strong track record of world-leading research in liquid crystals. Its academics have a growing reputation for inventing applications for liquid crystals way beyond the technology familiar to most of us through flat screen monitors”, said Sir Alan Langlands, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds.
The partnership with Merck coincides with significant investment by the University in both world-class research staff and facilities in this field. Work is well underway on a £ 96 million investment to integrate Engineering and Physical Sciences, bringing together talented physicists, chemists, materials scientists, engineers and computer scientists. It is due to open in 2020.
Last week, the German company partnered with flexible electronics solution provider FlexEnable so the two companies would come up with conformable, large area, full colour and video rate organic LCDs (OLCDs). FlexEnable’s high-performance organic thin-film transistors would combine with Merck’s polymer wall LC technology organic LCDs that can be curved around complex surfaces and shapes.
With a bend radius that can go below 30 millimetres, organic LCDs are expected to fill the market needs for new use cases including automotive applications, where bright, reliable, conformable and shapeable displays are required.
According to FlexEnable’s CEO Chuck Milligan, Merck’s polymer wall technology will allow LCD front-planes to be bent into more complex structures and shapes, further unlocking the benefits of FlexEnable’s flexible, low cost OTFT backplane technology.
University of Leeds – www.leeds.ac.uk
FlexEnable – www.flexenable.com