Nanotechnology start-up Light Polymers is revolutionizing the circular polarizer manufacturing processes with cutting edge lyotropic liquid crystal technology. Circular polarizers are a critical component for flexible and foldable OLED flat panel displays. Today, we’re meeting Nick and Yuwen, chemical engineering interns on Light Polymers’ team.
Interviewer: So tell us about your backgrounds, how did you end up working with Light Polymers?
Yuwen: I’m a Chemical Engineering senior at UC Berkeley. I found the opportunity to work with Light Polymers through the Global Internship program. I have previous lab experience from the organic chemistry lab at school. In the R&D lab for Light Polymers, you use the same techniques as you do in class, but you are using your experience and knowledge to create new formulations that meet certain product goals.
Nick: I’m also a Chemical Engineering senior at UC Berkeley. This is the first startup I’ve worked for but I do have lab experience from the school environment. I’m new to the professional lab environment – school is mainly ‘cookbook’ procedures where all questions are easily answered. Schools use standardized equipment. At Light Polymers we have to invent new processes and create process steps. For example, you might need to create a process to solve a process-issue like Hydrogen removal. This may mean innovating techniques or equipment.
I: What sort of tasks are each of you doing day-to-day?
Y: I’m working on coating formulation. A key part of this was learning how to coat on glass, including the treatment of the glass. You have to make sure there is no dirt or other particles on the glass that will affect the coating. I have become familiar with both hand & machine coating processes during our testing. Light Polymers employs various formulation ratios for different crystal alignments. These alignments change the light wavelengths transmitted by the polarizer. I also perform adhesion tests to test the quality of the coating application process and determine if the coating is reliable.
N: Light Polymers’ solutions must be purified using ultrafiltration units before they are complete. A formulation may have impurities that must be removed before the OLED coating process. Depending on the specific formulation being tested, this could mean anywhere from 1 day to one week to wholly filter a formulation for use. We use conductivity is used to measure the coating purity, if the microsiemens measurement is under 50 I know the formulation is pure enough.
I: What is unique about the chemistry and a water-based formulation?
N: Lyotropic liquid crystals are an emerging category of new materials, Light Polymers has unique formulations whose properties solve multiple issues in the products that use LEDs or OLED panels, such as smartphones. The filtrations we perform remove impurities from the process. All the impurities in these formulations are safe salts, there are no toxic chemicals – this means that manufacturers don’t have to worry about expensive wastewater controls.
Y: Light Polymers’ surfactant solutions increase adhesion onto substrates using standard processes and our coating process can simply be dried and the application is complete. These coatings make foldable screens a reality and greatly increase OLED screen visibility in high brightness environments. The high refractive index of these formulations allows thinner coatings that are lighter and more energy efficient.
Light Polymers’ team, based in Silicon Valley, continues to develop groundbreaking lyotropic liquid crystal chemistry to bring innovative products to the market. Our proprietary chemistry enhances OLED displays, improves the efficiency in LED lighting and has a wide array of other applications. If you missed it, make sure to check out part one of ‘Meet Light Polymers’ here.