$7.5 million funds work in 'organic' electronics


Steven Schultz

Princeton NJ -- Universal Display Corp., a small publicly traded company in Ewing, N.J., has renewed its funding of Princeton engineers whose research could lead to brighter, cheaper, more versatile flat-panel electronic displays.

The company will provide $7.5 million over five years to fund research in the lab of Stephen Forrest, professor of electrical engineering, as well as the work of one of Forrest's former students who is now at the University of Southern California. The agreement extends and expands a collaboration that began in 1994 and was renewed once before in 1997.

The researchers believe the technology, based on an emerging class of materials called "organic" electronics, could reduce the size and cost of devices that currently use video displays and also open the door for displays to be used in many new ways, such as a pen-sized video screen that rolls up like a window shade. Universal Display already is working with Sony, Sanyo and other electronics makers to use the technology it licensed from Princeton over the last eight years in cell phones and television and computer monitors.

The arrangement with Universal Display has become a model for the increasingly common partnerships that Princeton scientists and engineers are establishing with commercial ventures. It has shown how partnerships with industry can bridge the gap between basic academic science and applied product development, while allowing unfettered, open-ended research, said Forrest.

"The progress we've made under our agreement is truly exciting and remarkable," said Forrest, the James McDonnell Distinguished University Professor. "This has proved to be an invaluable experience for professors, scientists and students."

Before establishing an arrangement with Universal Display, the University had tried unsuccessfully to pitch the display technology directly to large electronics makers. "We were an academic curiosity and no more," said Joseph Montemarano, director for industrial liaison at the University's Center for Photonic and Optoelectronic Materials.

"The talent they brought to bear was to take this academic curiosity, which was clearly an elegant piece of technology, and translate it into terms that the financial world could understand," said Montemarano.

That connection, in turn, makes it easier for scientists to obtain funding for basic science from the federal government, which often values research with real-world applications, Montemarano said. The U.S. military, for example, is funding Princeton research into organic materials for displays, lighting and solar power generation.

Princeton has now grown into a world leader in the area of organic electronics, which uses molecules similar to some found in biology to perform electronic functions now done by silicon and other minerals and metals.

The University showcased its research in this area at a May 28 on-campus "Venture Workshop on Organic and Plastic Electronics," which featured presentations, geared toward investors, from experts in academics, industry and government.

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June 17, 2002
Vol. 92, No. 29
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Contents

Commencement 2002
Tilghman urges graduates to carry on 'the spirit of Princeton'
Four faculty members recognized for their outstanding teaching
Commencement highlights on Web
Photographs from Commencement 2002
By the numbers: Commencement 2002

Inside
Spence gift creates Ludwig endowment
University libraries have designs on the future

Science
Study tracks death of iguanas in the Galapagos
$7.5 million funds work in 'organic' electronics
Students take challenging class assignment to the wall
Scholars go to the schools to teach science

Faculty news
Malkiel, Taylor reappointed
Faculty members named to endowed chairs
Board approves promotions
New faculty members appointed
Twelve faculty members transfer to emeritus status

Sections
People, spotlight
People, briefs
Calendar of events


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Editor: Ruth Stevens
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Staff writers: Jennifer Greenstein Altmann, Steven Schultz
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Photographer: Denise Applewhite
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Web edition: Mahlon Lovett