Transparent conductive oxides (TCO) provide the rare functional combination of being electrically conductive but also transparent. This unique pair of features makes them applicable to a wide range of uses, including photovoltaic solar cells, LCD displays, infrared detectors, RFI/EMI shielding, touch panel contacts, electro-chemical deposition tools, capacitors, static charge dissipation devices, and even in energy-saving windows in “smart home” applications.
Given the variety in this range of applications, it is important to have a thorough understanding of the many TCO options that are available.
Indium tin oxide coated glass is probably the most popular substrate for systems that need the conductivity and transparency provided by TCOs. ITO can be easily deposited on soda lime glass substrates as a high-quality thin film, and the industry has decades of experience with this material set. There is also an option of putting ITO on PET film (polyethylene terephthalate) for applications where flexibility is needed.
Another TCO option is aluminum doped zinc oxide (AZO), which has properties that are similar to ITO so it can replace ITO in any application. The advantage of AZO is that it is lower cost.
A third option is fluorine doped tin oxide (FTO), which has similar properties as well, but it is also stable under atmospheric conditions, chemically inert, mechanically hard, abrasion tolerant, and resistant to high temperatures.
All these materials are available from MSE Supplies, which manufactures an extensive range of standard and custom products. The conductor sheet resistance, substrate area, and substrate thickness can be selected in off-the-shelf values or customized as needed, and the conductor can also be patterned with laser or chemical etching. MSE has exacting standards for warpage, flatness, resistance uniformity and other features, so the users receive only the highest quality products for the most demanding research and product development requirements.