Office of Technology Transfer – University of Michigan

System and Method for Continuous-Feed Thin Film Deposition on Flexible Substrates

Technology #5372

Thin Films

Thin film deposition, the application of a thin layer of material on a substrate, is rapidly growing in popularity, owing to the exceptional properties that can be created from electrical conductivity to material strength. Two thin films that have seen explosive growth are carbon nanotubes and graphene, each with CAGRs in excess of 25%. The technological challenge that remains is creating a system that is able to economically mass produce these materials, while carefully controlling the deposition process. Existing mass production systems such as roll-to-roll CVD (chemical vapor deposition) systems are lacking in both material uniformity and the ability to customize environmental properties to create ideal materials. With a carbon nanotube market that is expected to reach over $100M by 2013, with 7.7 kilotons of production per year, there is a substantial opportunity for a system that can mass produce thin films with detailed control.

Continuous-feed Thin Film Deposition

Researchers from the University of Michigan Mechanical Engineering Department have developed a technology that allows for the rapid roll-to-roll manufacturing of thin films with careful control of the deposition parameters. The system builds thin films on a flexible substrate, with control over pressure, temperature, federate, and the controlled addition of multiple gasses or liquids. Experiments have shown that the system is able to rapidly produce carbon nanotubes of a desired height, which has applications across a range of industries. The system produces uniform thin films, uses less gas than competing technologies, accounts for external errors such as uneven heaters, and can incorporate in situ optical measurements. Most of the components for the system are COTS (commercial off the shelf), and the entire system is scalable and reconfigurable to meet specific thin film demands.


  • Carbon nanotube mass production
  • Graphene mass production
  • Chemical barrier coatings


  • Very high throughput
  • Easily customizable thin film properties
  • Consistent, even films