Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 March 2011
Indium tin oxide (ITO) films deposited on polyester substrates are a key material in the development of two exciting technologies, touchscreens and flexible liquid crystal displays. The new generation “plastic” displays and touchscreens must be flexible and robust, have excellent optical properties, and be inexpensive. We report on the mechanical and electrical reliability of ITO on a polyethylene terephthalate substrate (PET). We show that the mechanical behavior of the ITO film is dominated by the properties of the substrate and that the deformation of the substrate is mapped by the crack patterns in the ITO. This is most strongly evidenced in the simulated wear of a touchscreen where failure after >50000 pen strokes is primarily due to cracking of the ITO as a result of increased substrate deformation over time. In addition the mechanical reliability of the ITO layer is dependent on the film thickness. Cracking was observed in a 105 nm thick ITO film at a strain of 0.022 and for a 16.8 nm thick film at 0.003. The thickness and hence sheet resistance of the film effectively limits the maximum allowable deformation of the substrate and must be considered in the design of suitable display and touchscreen devices. In addition we report on the change in resistance with time-at- temperature and relate this to the shrinkage of the substrate.
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