A Taiwanese chemical lab is in the early stages of commercializing a new class of plastic material aimed at making high-quality, yet lower-cost substrates for next generation high-density DVDs. And because of the plastic's unique properties, including thermal resistance and low dielectric constant, the lab believes it can also be used as a substrate in flat-panel displays, printed-circuit boards and as a potential replacement for silicon in fiber optic devices.
Union Chemical Laboratories (UCL), a division of the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), initially developed the metallocen-based cyclic olefin copolymer (mCOC) as a new substrate for optical discs. Its primary application would be for high-density DVDs with a storage capacity of at least 15 Gbytes. While current CDs and DVDs use polycarbonate as a substrate, the next-generation high-density DVDs will require a substrate that doesn't absorb the shorter wavelengths of the blue light lasers needed to read the densely stored information. Today's optical disc drives use infrared or red light lasers to read CDs and DVDs.
The lab is working with Ritek and CMC Magnetics to explore the feasibility of adapting the mCOC material to their current polycarbonate-based manufacturing process. At the same time, UCL is also showing upstream plastics manufacturers how to set up a production system for making the material. By working concurrently along different parts of the supply chain, the lab hopes the material will reach commercial volume in the optical disc industry in about two years.