Israel, Korea collaborate on novel nanoparticles

Ink from silver-coated copper particles for the emerging field of printed electronics marks first commercial joint venture between the two countries.

 Israel, Korea collaborate on novel nanoparticles


Yissum CEO Yaacov Michlin, left, with Duek Chi Lee, CEO of Vaxan, at the signing of the agreement.

By Avigayil Kadesh

Israelis and Koreans inked a deal in Jerusalem that gives a leading Korean printing firm the rights to an Israeli innovation for producing conductive ink.

The Korean company Vaxan Steel will develop a process invented at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for utilizing silver-coated copper nanoparticles to make new, cheaper inks for the rapidly expanding field of printed electronics. These inks will enable manufacturers to print electric circuits on almost any surface, including paper, plastic, silicon and ceramics. Some of the many present and potential applications for such an ink are thin-film photovoltaics, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and OLED lighting and sensors.

Invented by Prof. Shlomo Magdassi, Dr. Alexander Kamyshny and Michael Grouchko from the Institute of Chemistry at the Hebrew University, the inks can be utilized in a variety of printing technologies, including inkjet printing. "We are proud that the Hebrew University has had the opportunity to take part in this collaboration, and hope to strengthen our ties with the Korean industry in the future," says Yaacov Michlin, CEO of Yissum Research Development, the university’s technology transfer company. "We are confident that our new partners will help us in introducing this invention to the market."

Conductive printing on electronics can be achieved through lithography and screen printing. However, these methods are usually time-consuming and expensive. More recently, the industry has been trending toward digital methods, particularly inkjet printing – where droplets of ink containing metallic nanoparticles are jetted onto plastic sheeting, glass or silicon.
The problem is that while silver nanoparticles are best because they are highly conductive even after the printed film is exposed to oxygen, this metal is very expensive. The much cheaper copper is an attractive alternative, but it loses its conductivity after oxidation. Magdassi and his colleagues solved this dilemma by inventing copper nanoparticles covered by a thin layer of silver. This results in cheap, conductive, air-stable particles for inks in a variety of printed electronics applications.

First commercial collaboration
Hyunsung Kim of GlobalTech Korea, a governmental organization forging business ties between Israeli and Korean companies, says this agreement marks the first commercial collaboration between an Israeli university and a Korean company. "We at GlobalTech Korea’s Tel Aviv office will continue to do our best to advance future R&D collaboration between the two countries," Kim adds.

The agreement signed in late January gives Vaxan a license to commercialize the technology exclusively in Asia, excluding Israel and former Soviet Union countries. In return, Yissum will receive research fees and royalties from future sales.

Ranked among the top technology transfer companies in the world, Yissum has registered more than 7,000 patents covering 2,023 inventions; has licensed out 530 technologies; and has spun-off 72 companies. Products based on Hebrew University technologies commercialized by Yissum today generate over $2 billion in annual sales for partners such as Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, Roche, Merck, Teva, Google, Adobe, Phillips, Syngenta and Monsanto.

"The nanotechnology application which we have licensed from Yissum will be applied to semiconductors, IT, LED, and OLED industries," Vaxan CEO Duek Chi Lee says. "We are certain that this technological innovation will be an international success in electronic markets of the future."
Dana Gavish-Fridman of Yissum says Vaxan "showed a lot of interest and good will throughout the process," which went smoothly with the help of translators and took only a few months to complete. "Lately there is more and more interest from Koreans in Israeli ingenuity, and the fact that they have representatives here in Israel shows they are serious about making business with Israeli companies."

This activity was spurred by an October 2009 Korea-Israel Technology Commercialization Forum in Seoul, which drew 120 participants and resulted in 30 business meetings. Sponsored by the Korea-Israel Industrial R&D Foundation, a joint venture between the Republic of Korea and the State of Israel, the forum featured nine Korean and Israeli speakers who shared insights into technology commercialization and discussed strategies for further technology cooperation in the global market.