The Performance Materials business sector comprises the specialty chemicals business of Merck KGaA, and supplies solutions for displays, computer chips and surfaces of every kind. The business sector will be showcasing its technologies at the CES in Las Vegas. Every year, new products and innovations for the electronics sector are presented there.
“Megatrends such as digitalization, urbanization and mobility are drivers of innovation in the field of modern electronic systems. Our high-tech solutions make the realization of Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, 5G, the Internet of Things, and autonomous driving possible,” said Kai Beckmann, CEO Performance Materials and member of the Executive Board of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.
The challenge facing the semiconductor industry is to develop more powerful processors and larger memory chips that simultaneously meet energy efficiency and cost targets. With its solutions, Merck KGaA, is playing a key role in making computer chips even smaller and cheaper while enhancing their functionality and computing power at the same time. For instance, integrated circuits the size of a postage stamp can accommodate nearly as many transistors as there are people on earth today – around seven billion.
Further miniaturization of the structures used on semiconductors is slowly reaching physical limits. That is why today memory chips are not only using the limited two-dimensional surface area, but are also being structured in a third dimension. 3D NAND technology permits the development of stacked chip architecture, which can be manufactured using materials from Merck KGaA.
A further breakthrough innovation in the semiconductor industry is a chemical-based solution using block co-polymers that cause the materials to self-assemble and move into pre-defined patterns. Today, owing to Directed Self-Assembly (DSA) technology, very narrow, conductive pattern structures in the 10 nanometer range are already possible today. When compared with conventional multiple image patterning technology, which is far more work-intensive and cost-prohibitive, DSA has the great advantage of permitting high-volume cost-effective nanoscale manufacturing. Multiple semiconductor companies are piloting this technology for high volume manufacturing.
With its liquid crystals business, Merck KGaA is a leading producer of liquid crystal mixtures for the display industry. At the same time, the OLED technology, for which Merck KGaA also ranks among the leading material suppliers, is gaining importance in the high-end display sector. Foldable or bendable smartphone displays are one application of OLED materials currently coming onto the market.
“Our OLED materials permit flexible and foldable display applications combined with reflection protection and better image quality thanks to novel reactive mesogens. OLED displays are also particularly interesting for mobile end devices because their thin design leaves more room for batteries, thus making it possible to increase battery life by more than 10%,” said Michael Heckmeier, head of the Display Solutions business unit within Performance Materials.
Merck KGaA is pursuing a strategy of leveraging its expertise in order to develop new fields of application for innovative liquid crystal technologies. Liquid crystal window modules, which became commercially available this year, are an innovation in the architectural sector. At the push of a button, the light transmittance of the windows can be changed while remaining transparent.
“When our technology is used, buildings become more sustainable and energy-efficient. The window modules are available in a wide range of colors and shapes, giving architects extensive design freedom,” Heckmeier noted. Initial projects are already underway.