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Home > Army Awards ASU $43.7 Million for Flexible Display Development

Army Awards ASU $43.7 Million for Flexible Display Development

February 10, 2004

The U.S. Army has awarded Arizona State University a $43.7 million, five-year cooperative agreement to establish the Army Flexible Display Center, where flexible, low-power computer displays will be developed that can be continually refreshed with new data and carried in the field – a device that will revolutionize combat strategy.

“Think of these displays as thin computer screens that can be rolled up or folded and put in a warfighter’s pocket,” said Greg Raupp, ASU professor of chemical engineering, Associate Vice President for Research, and director of the center. “The displays would be integrated with wireless communications technology linked to central command and control, enabling continual updating of information vital to a successful operation.”

For example, these real-time displays will provide improved operational communications by supplying information on troop and enemy positions and movements, weather and environmental conditions, and other important variables providing dynamic field intelligence.

This $43.7 million agreement has a performance period of five years with an option for an additional $50 million over an added five-year period.

“This award is further evidence that ASU can compete with the nation’s elite institutions for awards of this magnitude and importance on an international scale,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “There is keen interest in our capability to develop advanced technologies, integrate those technologies together into working devices and deploy them in the most critical and demanding applications. It has enabled us to compete successfully to get this center against very stiff competition and a rigorous review process.”

Display technology is critical to the Army’s network centric Future Force.

“Flexible display technology has the potential to be implemented in a wide variety of applications from command centers, to vehicle platforms, to individual soldiers. It will revolutionize the way in which information is disseminated on the battlefield, increasing both the lethality and survivability of the Future Force,” said Acting Director U.S. Army Research Laboratory, John Miller.

The award is testament to ASU’s ability to attract vital resources to the university and advance high tech growth in the Valley. The reputation of the Arizona Biodesign Institute (AzBio), where most of the science for the flexible display initiative will be conducted, is key in winning such path-breaking proposals.

The director of AzBio, world-renowned scientist George Poste, said passage last year of the Research Infrastructure Bill, which allocated $450 million to the state universities for the construction of world-class research infrastructure facilities, was an essential element in ASU’s success.

Also key in winning the award was the creation of the Applied NanoBioscience center in the Arizona Biodesign Institute, with outstanding scientists, engineers, and donated equipment and facilities from Motorola.

“The Army’s Flexible Display Center will integrate the best research being done in the government, universities, and industry to rapidly bring to the soldier the full potential of flexible display technology”, said Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Research and Technology, Dr. Thomas H. Killion. “This paradigm shifting technology will make obsolete printed matter and the printing press.”

This center is a major undertaking by the U.S. Army that is being launched after an intense, nearly year-long national competition.

During a site visit in September, representatives from the Army toured ASU’s proposed location for the center, a state-of-the-art multi-functional display manufacturing R&D facility in the ASU Research Park. This signature 250,000 square foot facility was originally a Motorola facility designed for flat panel display R&D. It includes 43,500 square feet of advanced clean room space and extensive wet and dry labs. ASU’s option to acquire the facility will allow a very rapid start up for the project, a scenario the Army deemed important to the success of the project.


FDI Center facility in ASU Research Park

“ASU’s success in winning this award is the result of a well-thought-out, strategic and coordinated effort,” said Jonathan Fink, Vice President for Research and Economic Affairs. “It is proof our new style of rapid, focused competition, including making major investments and commitments up front, positions us to triumph over more mature competing institutions.

“An incredible amount of work went into obtaining this award and it has been inspiring to witness the teamwork, collaboration and extra effort that have gone into the process,” said Fink. “I’m extremely proud, and I want to commend the entire ASU collaboration team and our industry partners for their leadership and tireless commitment throughout this effort.”

Raupp said within the first year, the center will have a fully operational 6-inch thin-film transistor (TFT) and organic light emitting diode (OLED) pilot line, a state-of-the-art OLED R&D laboratory, and a supporting 4-inch TFT R&D toolset. Transition to larger display size will occur within a few years as a so-called GEN II pilot line processing 370 mm x 470 mm substrates will become operational.

The ASU Army Flexible Display Center is a university-industry-government collaboration that will provide a national asset in flexible display technology research, development and prototype manufacturing.

“The center will be the focal point in a large-scale national effort to provide tomorrow’s warfighters with ubiquitous, conformal and flexible displays that are lightweight, rugged, low power and low cost,” Raupp said. “These displays will be integrated with computation, communications and global positioning subsystems to significantly enhance the soldier’s situational awareness, survivability and effectiveness.”

Working within the center will be researchers from a strategically formed team of military, industry and academic partners. Industry partners include DuPont Displays, Kodak, Honeywell, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Universal Display Corporation, Kent Displays, E Ink, FlexICs, Three-Five Systems, General Atomics, Optiva, ECD, Southwall, the U.S. Display Consortium, and AGI. Key academic partners include Cornell University, the University of Southern California, Penn State University, University of Arkansas, and the University of Arizona Optical Sciences Center.

“The outstanding capabilities of our facility and its manufacturing R&D infrastructure will enable us to work side-by-side with our partners to intensively co-develop new breakthrough technologies,” noted Raupp.

In addition to purchasing the Motorola facility, ASU is in midst of a rapid expansion of its research infrastructure, with facilities already purchased, under construction, and planned, which will add 1 million sq. ft. of world-class research space. The state of Arizona, with passage of the research infrastructure bill last June, has committed $185 million to ASU for research facilities that will attract top scientists and additional revenue, as well as spawn new business and industry in Arizona.

As part of the flexible display initiative, a suite of candidate display technologies will be developed and fully evaluated. Select technologies will be integrated into working prototypes and demonstrators for controlled field testing by the Army and partner companies. Learning gained through the prototyping activities will feed back into the research program to drive further advances in display size, capability and performance.

In addition to military uses, flexible display technology promises to provide a boost to U.S. display companies by helping to create many significant future commercial applications. Raupp said the center will seek creative opportunities to leverage intellectual, physical and technological capability to establish one or more “product cooperatives” that could substantially accelerate technology advancement and market readiness, enhance prototyping and manufacturing capability and strengthen the overall domestic flexible display industry.

Media contact: Skip Derra, (480) 965-4823;

Conceptual first integrated
conformal display system


Greg Raupp

Greg Raupp

Six displays on a GEN II substrate
(photograph courtesy of Motorola, Inc.)




























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