KSU Researcher Forms Firm to Market Flexible Electronics
KENT, Ohio -- A new company formed by a Kent State University researcher and inventor will market a technological innovation -- flexible, electrically conductive transparent films. The product, says the inventor, can be used in electronic devices such as smartphones, touchscreens, and in windows that switch from transparent to opaque to block light.
Fitos, the company founded by John L. West, trustee research professor and senior research fellow at Kent State’s Liquid Crystal Institute, has been awarded $100,000 by the Ohio Third Frontier Commission to further develop and the technology and find commercial uses. It has also been awarded $100,000 from an innovation fund administered by the Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise to support technology startups in northeastern Ohio.
Fitos, the acronym for flexible indium tin oxide solutions, will produce its flexible films at the university’s Centennial Research Park, which houses other high-tech startup companies. Indium tin oxide, which conducts electricity, is used in transparent thin layers in cell phones and other electronic devices.
West and two students have applied for three patents. Licensing arrangements are underway under which Kent State would receive royalties on product sales and own a small stake in Fitos, West says.
One application of the technology is in a responsive film that can fit between panes of glass and be electronically rolled up, much like a venetian blind or shade. It does not show any cracks of light when switched to an opaque mode or scattering lines when switched to the clear mode.
West’s latest invention “resulted from a surprise in my lab,” he said. While he was cutting a flexible plastic substrate with a razor, he saw under the microscope that perfect cracks had resulted. He turned aside from what he had been working on and investigated the cracks further. Eventually, he realized that they could be produced on a large flexible sheet, creating tiny electrode patterns that would not be seen by the naked eye.
Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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