Zinc coating challenges ITO at Oxford
Researchers at the University of Oxford have won £25,000 towards replacing indium tin oxide (ITO) transparent conductors with cheaper zinc-based coatings.
“Currently, Indium tin oxide (ITO) is used by over 97% of the transparent conducting oxide market as it possesses a near-ideal combination of high transparency and high electrical conductivity,” said Isis Innovation, the University’s patent exploitation company. “However, indium metal is relatively scarce, expensive and has a highly volatile price. China produces over half of the world’s indium and has recently significantly reduced its export quotas.”
Oxford’s alternative is silicon-doped zinc oxide.
“Zinc is a much more abundant material than indium, and our material offers electrical conductivities around two thirds of ITO, with comparable optical transparency,” said Professor Peter Edwards, the University’s head of inorganic chemistry. “The coatings were developed as part of a programme to investigate low-cost, earth-abundant materials and inexpensive deposition routes which could be used for large-area transparent conducting oxide coatings for products such as solar photovoltaic cells.”
The prize comes from an unusual source: the Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers.
The Company is a supporter of materials science education and research at schools and universities in the UK.
It provides grants and prizes, as well as funding for teaching support, industrial placements, conferences and research.
“Our aim is to encourage innovative scientific entrepreneurship and help providing funding, which is often very difficult to source, to help bring new materials science research to market,” said Professor Bill Bonfield, chairman of the Armourers & Brasiers Venture Prize judging panel. “This coating could seriously reduce costs for manufacturers and consumers.
The Oxford team will use its cash to trial manufacturing techniques and demonstrate the thin-film coating in photovoltaic cells, OLEDs and LCDs.