This breakthrough has been achieved as the Dutch, German and UK partners have succeeded where many others have failed - by making the production of miniature electric and computer systems, known as nanotechnology, economically viable.
This new technology offers "more functionality for less money, better integration of components and a reduction of components in smaller, lighter products," says Dr Mike Beunder, CEO of Dutch lead partner, Cavendish Kinetics BV.
For example, replacing the antenna switch on a mobile phone with one created using the new technology can have a dramatic effect. The new phone is more energy efficient and needs less battery power, so it uses a smaller battery thereby reducing the size and weight of the phone even more.
The partners are also investigating the use of the new technology to produce non-volatile memory devices (memory that keeps data without power) and smart cards that will result in smaller and lighter computers, PDAs and many other electronic devices.
The project will allow the partners to exploit a segment of a global market worth €200 billion – the segment includes a number of significant volume products such as smart cards (in which Europe has a leading global position), which already account for multi billion euro revenues.
"Previous attempts to create these miniature circuits and switches have failed on account of soaring costs and high wastage, but the MESCI I project partners have succeeded by adapting existing proven technology rather than trying to develop new processes," says Beunder. The process also offers new opportunities for European semi-conductor factories as the new devices can be manufactured without investment in new equipment, thereby allowing these factories to continue operating for longer.
"Adding these modules developed in a standard environment ensures manufacturability in nearly every factory. Normally they require special processes and non-standard materials but our add on process makes it possible and profitable," explains Wolfgang Appel, Technology Division Manager at the German project partner, IMS.
EUREKA not only made this project possible but has also generated other research projects to look into improving the encapsulating or packaging of the miniature devices and to develop production processes using new materials. "EUREKA combines your knowledge and experience with your partner's abilities, to create a win–win situation," says Beunder.
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