National Physical Laboratory

Plastic Electronics

Plastic electronics
Image courtesy of iStockphoto

The Electronics Interconnection group at NPL has extensive experience in the metrology of electronic materials, and world-class facilities for materials characterisation and measurement.

The group is developing a suite of metrology methods to enable improved manufacturability and lifetime prediction of plastic electronics systems. Key process variables in a range of PE systems are being characterised and combinatorial metrology tools for assessing fitness for purpose are being developed. Methods in identifying degradation in material and electrical properties are being developed.

Lifetime testing of plastic electronics assemblies

  • Inkjet direct write substrates
  • Screen printed conductive ink substrates
  • SMT component assembly using isotropic adhesives, with attachment geometry guidelines
  • Accelerated testing using combinational thermal cycling and damp heat stressing
  • Substrate and component finish investigations

Reusable, Unzippable Sustainable Electronics

  • Innovative enabling technology leading to fabrication of sustainable multi-layer electronics assemblies
  • Disruptive change in manufacturing process is proposed.
  • Special polymer layers and binders developed to allow straight forward, end-of-life disassembly with easy reuse and recycling
  • Technology lends itself readily to rigid, flexible and 3D structures
  • Recovery levels in typical assemblies will be improved to at least 90%
  • Collaborative project with Gwent Electronic Materials and In2Tec

Collaborative Research Opportunities in Plastic Electronics: Looking for partners

Metrology for flexible plastic electronics systems

  • The aim of this project is to investigate novel performance assessment methods for known lifetime weaknesses in plastic electronics
  • Characterising the interfaces between conductive particles to predict lifetime performance during or immediately after the production process
  • Develop in-situ measurement methods with combinatorial ageing methods (cyclic temperature and humidity)
  • Build on experience in the field and working in multiple-client projects

Download details on Opportunities for collaboration Adobe Acrobat PDF file

NPL Capability

NPL has a wide range of skills in plastic electronics and underpinning capability:

Prototype fabrication

  • Print, place components, and cure
  • Clean room, dicing saw, spin-coating, photolithography and mask alignment, wire bonder, thermal evaporators, e-beam coating

Analytical tools


Micro-material testing

  • Material properties, including fatigue, creep, general degradation, in metal and polymer systems
  • Wide range of mechanical frequencies and humidity conditions
  • Electrical characterisation of interconnects: linearity, eddy current, TDR

Deep understanding of lifetime degradation and characterisation

  • Application of various stress regimes (thermal, humidity, mechanical) and characterisation
  • Characterisation of various materials: adhesives, coatings, substrates (thermoset, thermoplastic, biodegradable)
  • Capability in studying electrochemical failure at interfaces (surface and buried) using DC and AC techniques
Last Updated: 2 Apr 2012
Created: 31 Mar 2011