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The energy-efficient display that can be powered without a battery

The international display manufacturer Ynvisible licenses RISE electrochromic display technology. The collaboration between the companies has led to the development of an energy-efficient display that can operate without a battery. The energy-smart technology contributes to new solutions for a sustainable future with less electrical waste and reduced electricity consumption.

– We produce the market's most energy-efficient displays, says Tommy Höglund, Managing Director at Ynvisible Production AB and Vice President of Sales and Marketing at the parent company Ynvisible Interactive Inc.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is an area that is growing rapidly and more objects in society are becoming increasingly connected. RISE's long-term development of a smart and energy-efficient electrochromic display is now accelerating through a collaboration with Ynvisible.

– Our vision is for more inanimate objects to come alive, and with the display technology, we create visual interactive surfaces on more objects. Today, there are sensors on many things in our environment, but studies show that they rarely are read because the user feels that it is too complicated. But with simple visual feedback, like an interactive display, more users take active action, says Tommy Höglund.

Battery-free display creates smart logistic solution for pharmaceuticals

The printed electrochromic displays are based on many years of research by RISE. The core of the technology is an ink that changes color when the voltage changes. It creates a color shift with visual indicators that also can be turned on and off.

The displays' thin, flexible, and at the same time robust design makes it versatile and applicable in many different areas. They are tailored to each customer's specific needs and can, for example, be designed for monitoring temperature as a cold chain indicator or as smart bandages that indicate when they need to be changed.

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Tommy Höglund platschef på displayföretaget Ynvisible Production AB
Tommy Höglund, Ynvisible.

The technology is compatible with today's RFID chips (radio frequency identification) that are used in the transportation and logistics industry. Since the electrochromic displays only require a low current, it is possible to transfer energy through energy harvesting from nearby units, for example via Near Field Communication (NFC).

– With our technology, we will be able to produce RFID labels with visual displays that work completely without batteries. Because the display consumes so little energy, it can light up by using NFC, for example. This means that labels get their energy via wireless signals sent from nearby electronics, such as a mobile phone, says Tommy.

RFID tag with NFC technology on a ECD display
RFID tag with NFC technology makes it easy to read off if the temperature has been exceeded. The display is developed by Ynvisible and Identiv.

Ynvisible sees great possibilities for companies to use the technology to both ensure quality and reduce waste when transporting products, like temperature-sensitive vaccines. To ensure that the cold chain has not been broken during the transport of medicines, a visual indicator may be the solution.

– The pharmaceutical industry has shown an interest in using our display on medical products and in pharmaceutical logistics, for example as a cold chain indicator. Our technology can be applied to an RFID tag to create a visual interface with a temperature indicator that shows whether the contents of the package have maintained the correct temperature, says Tommy.

Reduced environmental impact with the energy-efficient display

Energy-efficient battery-free display - Ynvisible
The energy-efficient display can be powered without a battery.

Displays are a multi-billion-dollar industry, and the technology is used in everything from consumer electronics to the thousands of road signs around the country.

– An important advantage of electrochromic displays is the low energy consumption, which enables battery-free applications for our customers. This means that you can use more displays and at the same time have an overall lower environmental impact with fewer batteries in circulation. A long-term goal is for us to have high-volume production of the electrochromic displays on paper, says Tommy Höglund.

Ynvisible is the only display manufacturer that prints displays with conventional printing presses, so-called screen printing. It is, for example, the most common method of printing textiles, but it can be used for many different materials. Screen printing makes it possible to produce large volumes, in a short time, and cost-effectively since several displays are manufactured simultaneously with so-called roll-to-roll production. The plastic material, that the displays are printed on, is on a roll and passes through the 13-meter-long printing press. The electronics are printed on the plastic substrate in various structures that creates the displays.

Battery-free electrochromic display printed on a roll

The electrochromic displays are manufactured with roll-to-roll production.

– Our technology is more energy-efficient than, for example, e-paper (electronic paper) and LCD (liquid crystal displays) if you look at applications used outdoors. The manufacturing cost is also lower. We have manufactured displays for our customers at a 60 percent lower cost than their previous products with LED technology and e-paper, says Tommy.

Long-standing collaboration between RISE and Ynvisible

The testbed Printed Electronics Arena, run by RISE, brings academic research and the industry needs closer together. 20 years of research have gone into the patented electrochromic display technology.

Duncan Platt, Unit Manager at RISE testbed Printed Electronics Arena
Duncan Platt, RISE.

– We create new energy-smart solutions for a sustainable future. Our goal is to develop more sustainable electronics that can lead to both reduced energy consumption and electronic waste in society, says Duncan Platt, Unit Manager at RISE.

Ynvisible licenses the technology from RISE and collaborates with the research institute on further development of the display technology in new application areas.

– This is a super exciting technology that has the potential to replace LCD in many applications. The chemistry and materials research behind the technology originates from Linköping University and RISE, but we have refined the chemistry and production process for many years and can now license the technology, says Duncan.

In 2019, the Canadian company Ynvisible Interactive Inc. acquired the Linköping-based business Consensum Production AB, now Ynvisible Production AB. The international display manufacturer is now investing in the production of printed electrochromic displays and contract manufacturing of printed electronics in Linköping. Tommy Höglund says that the support from RISE in the development of customized prototypes has been an important part of the company's success:

– The customer-specific prototypes have been a huge help for the development of our product. This has laid the foundation for the strong position we have on the market today. We have more customers than ever and more display projects with major global brands. The next step for our business is to start with high-volume production where we produce millions of displays. It will happen within the next year, says Tommy.

During the past decade, Norrköping has become a hub for printed electronics, and it has attracted many regional and foreign companies. At the core is the innovation cluster Printed Electronics Arena, which is run by RISE in close collaboration with Linköping University's laboratory for organic electronics (LOE) and Norrköping Science Park.

– The innovation cluster was a prerequisite for us to be able to scale up our prototype production. The network in Norrköping, with the companies that have been formed around Printed Electronics Arena, has been important for Ynvisible's decision to invest in commercial production of printed electronics in Sweden. We now have an even greater capacity to meet the need for large-scale production of printed electronics in the global market, says Tommy Höglund.

The test and demonstration facility is operated by RISE in close collaboration with Linköping University. Printed Electronics Arena is funded by Vinnova, Region Östergötland, Norrköpings kommun, and the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

BONUS: This is how the displays are made

Read more in the next story about how Printed Electronics Arena creates custom-made display prototypes. Do you want to develop energy-efficient displays adapted to your specific products and applications? Contact us for a free consultation.

Published: 2021-11-17
Björn Norberg

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Björn Norberg

Forsknings- och affärsutvecklare

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