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Advanced Manufacturing

Manufacturing LEDs Directly onto Flexible Metal Foil

Company Name: iBeam Materials, Inc.
Program Office: Advanced Manufacturing
Location: Santa Fe, NM
Award Amount ($): $225,000
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Active
Participating Lab(s): Sandia National Laboratories


Light-emitting diode (LED) lighting can save significant amounts of energy compared to incandescent light bulbs, but LEDs still come with higher up-front costs. Reducing manufacturing and component costs for LEDs can help speed their adoption, while new processes and new materials can also open up entirely new product categories in lighting.

LED lighting is currently manufactured on single-crystal sapphire wafers, which restrict both their size and manufacturers' ability to use lower-cost processes. iBeam Materials has developed a patent-pending alternative process that could allow manufacturers to deposit LEDs directly onto many different surface materials including thin, flexible metal foil. This breakthrough technology could enable LEDs to be manufactured using low-cost roll-to-roll manufacturing, similar to how a newspaper printing press transfers ink onto rolls of paper. Such processes could lead to the development of commercial products, such as low-cost LED wall coverings and applications in wearable electronics.


iBeam Materials' process builds on previous innovations developed through projects associated with the Department of Energy and the National Labs, including using ion-beam technology to create high-performance electronic and energy devices using indium gallium nitride semiconductors. This project will focus on utilizing facilities and expertise at Sandia National Laboratories to accelerate light-emitting process technology developments, leading to the first-ever fabrication of LEDs directly on flexible metal foil.


Cost-saving technologies in this field could affect LED grow lighting, used in horticulture, which is currently a $500 million market anticipated to reach $3 billion by 2020. Other market segments this technology could thrive in include wearable electronics, a rapidly growing $10 billion industry, as well as the lighting and display markets, each valued currently at $100 billion.

Lighting efficiency requirements are already saving electricity and reducing emissions associated with electricity production. Reducing the cost of LED manufacturing across new product categories could lead to further efficiency gains.

New lighting technology can open up new applications in safety and back-up systems for homes, businesses and civic buildings, agriculture, as well as light-weight, wearable electronic devices for first responders and medical professions.

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