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Advances in Roll-to-Roll Vacuum Coatings Technology

Often new technologies, processes or materials suddenly appear that attract some publicity. It is not always easy to find reviews of these advances that allow the reader to compare and contrast the different technologies. This series of books aims at providing a source of information that will enable the reader to obtain an overview of groups of recent advances in technologies, processes or materials.

Series Editor: Charles A. Bishop

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Flexible Glass

Enabling Thin, Lightweight, and Flexible Electronics





Edited by

Sean M. Garner







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Foreword by Peter L. Bocko

Technological revolutions are often built upon a foundation of self-delusion and naiveté. That bleak statement requires some explanation. While a scientific revolution can be nucleated by an individual’s insight, the delivery of a breakthrough technology requires a shared vision of the innovation’s benefit followed by broad and protracted collaboration among materials, process, systems, device and application specialists. And if these collaborators realized at the outset the level of resolve and resources ultimately required to deliver a revolutionary technological platform, few would get off the ground.

Fortunately, a revolution in electronics based upon flexible glass has progressed well beyond initial naiveté and subsequent (and periodic) stages of disillusionment. This book is a major milepost in this platform’s development, documenting over a decade of hard won advances in the flexible glass platform through collaboration across relevant component technologies and applications. As an early promoter, champion and sponsor for the applications of flexible glass, I am excited that the building blocks for broad innovation have achieved critical mass, and for the first time are accessible in one place.

Glass has a capability of being drawn under heat and tension into a film of arbitrary thickness while retaining its desirable surface, mechanical and optical properties. This is simple and intuitive. After explaining to a customer engineer the process of drawing molten glass into precise sheet for LCDs, he asked “How do you make it thinner?”. “Pull harder.” I answered. Since glass-sheet manufacture has been automated, processes have been pushed to draw glass to the limits of sufficient thinness to achieve flexibility, motivated by the desire to minimize weight, enhance conformability or to enable in-line processing.

While the forming of precise ultra-thin glass has been established across multiple glass manufacturing platforms over the last 20 years, what has been missing were the constellation of enabling component technologies: packaging, handling, deposition, patterning and device design that can be used to transform flexible glass from the glass maker’s forming tool and adapt it to a functional system. This has resulted in skepticism and resistance of the electronics industry for commitment to large scale development of flexible glass platforms.

Things have changed since then, but I expect that it will still take time and much hard work to drive flexible glass to the high-volume applications that fully leverages its potential. The editor of this work as well as chapter author, my erstwhile colleague from Corning, Dr. Sean Garner, is in large part responsible for promoting flexible glass in the technology community and structuring the collaborations that have brought us to the verge of breakthrough of flexible glass into enabling advanced electronic applications. This book represents a major contribution to the field. The long-incubated flexible glass revolution is upon us.

Peter L. Bocko
Adjunct Professor of Materials Science & Engineering,
Cornell University
Former Chief Technology Officer, Corning Glass
Technologies, Corning Incorporated


Flexible glass continues to emerge as a significant material component for electronic and opto-electronic applications. Its use goes well beyond earlier capacitor applications. For example, new opportunities in fields of displays, sensors, lighting, backplanes, circuit boards, photonic substrates, and photovoltaics continue to be identified. This is much more than just transitioning the devices that exist currently on thicker rigid glass onto a thinner, flexible substrate. Flexible glass substrates in these applications enable new device designs, manufacturing processes, and performance levels not possible or practical with alternative substrate materials and may include electronic applications such as fully-integrated, large-area, smart surfaces. In addition, these new applications require specifically optimized fabrication processes, manufacturing equipment, and device designs that take advantage of the unique properties of flexible glass.

Although there have been previous discussions of flexible glass substrates and devices at conferences and in published journals, they have focused on very specific aspects or applications. This book, however, provides a much broader overview as well as detailed descriptions that cover flexible glass properties, device fabrication methods, and emerging applications. This book is not meant to provide a comprehensive, detailed description of all attributes and possibilities but rather, it provides the basis for identifying new device designs, applications, and manufacturing processes for which flexible glass substrates are uniquely suited. Information in this book encourages and enables the reader to identify and pursue advanced flexible glass applications that do not exist today and provides a launching point for exciting future directions.

Information in this book is based on over 10 years of valuable discussions and collaborations focused on truly defining what flexible glass means in the context of these emerging electronic and opto-electronic applications. This learning is also built upon decades of previous activities in earlier applications. What started personally for me as an “exploratory investigation” has occupied most of my career as I collaborated on various aspects of flexible glass’ definition, processing, and applications. The chapters included here are from some of my more significant collaborations meant to provide an overall, well-rounded perspective.

The chapters are grouped into three sections. The first focuses on flexible glass and flexible glass reliability and has three chapters with authors from Corning. The second section focuses on flexible glass device fabrication which includes chapters on roll-to-roll processing, vacuum deposition, and printed electronics. These chapters are authored by established experts in their respective fields that have extensive experience in processing flexible glass substrates in toolsets that range from research to pilot scale. The third section focuses on flexible glass device applications and includes chapters on photovoltaics, displays, integrated photonics, and microelectronics integration. These are authored by experts with direct experience in fabricating and characterizing flexible glass devices. The diverse list of authors and their depth of experience in working with a variety of material systems, processes, and device technologies significantly adds valuable context to the overall flexible glass discussion.


Sean Garner
June 2017