Interview with Corne Rentrop, WP4 Leader

Corne Rentrop is a senior research scientist who works in the hybrid printed electronics group of the Holst Center, TNO. Corne is also WP4 leader of the EnSO project.  


Tell me about yourself and your place of work.

Corne Rentrop: I have been working in TNO (the Netherlands Organization for applied scientific research) on materiasl science, and in the Holst Center for the past 2 years. The Holst Centre is an R&D independent open-innovative center, founded by both Imec and TNO. We focus on Wireless Autonomous Sensor Technologies and Flexible Electronics. It’s located at the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, the city built by Philips!

What do you mean? And how do you like it ?

C.R.: The campus is highly stimulating. It gathers more than 160 Institutes and companies, from SMEs to big names like Shimano for instance. It brings a very positive feeling of entrepreneurship. It’s also very international, just as in the Holst Center. We count 26 nationalities for a staff of 250 people. It means there are a lot of social events and more importantly, very good food! I’m encouraging researchers to come and work here, the atmosphere is very friendly and open-minded.

It seems like a good place to live in! Let’s get into the EnSO project. What’s your role in it?

C.R.: The WP4 of the EnSO project is the AMES (Autonomous Micro Energy Sources) assembly. Basically, we produce flexible electronic circuit boards by printing conductive ink on plastic foil. Thus electronic components are scalable at a low cost, since printed electronics can be easily produced at large scale with e.g. Roll-to-roll printing. The EnSO project focuses on energy for IoT (Internet of Object). One of the aim of the IoT field is to create products that are autonomous, i.e. do not need an external source of power. In EnSO, we were able to produce a hybridized flexboard which includes an antenna and power management system, and is used as part of an Energy harvester for small connected objects. So far we have produced prototypes of the flexboard with state of the art industrial production methods. We have received very positive comments. After few alteration of the initial design, we were able to meet the specifications and we are hoping to produce at larger scale in the near future.

It’s great news! It seems that thanks to this technology, you’re entering the LOPE-C competition. Could you tell us more?

C.R.: The LOPE-C conference and exhibition is a world-class event related to printed electronics. It’s jointly organized by the Organic Electronics Association and Messe Munchen. More than 1800 people are expected, thus it’s high visibility for us and for the project. In the LOPE-C competition, several highly innovative EU projects present their demonstration. We’re hoping to have positive and relevant feedbacks on the technology, and even win the competition!

Fingers crossed. Could you thus tell us the benefits you got from the EnSO project?

C.R.: What I really liked about EnSO is the link between R&D and Industry. Within the project, we were discussing with companies such as ST and Gemalto, and other end users. Performing research for such companies becomes more and more important for us, it keeps your feet on the ground. The ECSEL program is really good for bridging Industrial and Public Research. In EnSO, all the work we do is at a high TRL and can be expected to be on the market.

Talking about market, what’s the future of hybrid printed electronics?

C.R.: The printed electronics field is definitely on the rise. It’s flexible, low cost and can be produced in high volumes. Applications can range from the medical field to building facilities, packaging, and automotive. It’s rapidly growing. Scalability and Flexibility, but especially the fact that these electronics may even be stretchable is of particular interest. You can imagine to print electronics on rubber and insert it into clothes, or print it on plastic and then thermoform it into e.g. a phone.

It definitely stimulates imagination! And what about the place of Europe in this growing market?

C.R.: Tricky question! So far Europe was leading Research in the field but it may change. USA, China and Korea are now also big players in the game. In USA, the organic electronics (another way to call printed electronics) are funded by the Department of Defense. That’s why we need these EU Research project, which associates numerous countries, to redeem our ranking in the race!

Anything you want to add, any advice for young researchers?

C.R.: Look for your PEERs and be happy in your work.