The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is meanwhile THE mecca for all tech fans. Whether networked cars, 8K televisions or smart voice assistants – no other exhibition offers a better picture of what our daily lives will look like in the near future. We were also present, showcasing our innovative specialty chemicals products that are needed for high-performance computer chips and high-resolution displays, among other things.
Merck makes digitalization possible
From January 8 to 11, the who’s who of the technology world gathered in Las Vegas. At the CES, around 4,500 companies presented their vision of the world of tomorrow, including tech giants such as Amazon, Google and Samsung. And we from EMD Performance Materials (Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany) were there as well. Many people who know us mainly as a chemical and pharmaceutical company may still be surprised to learn that without our specialty chemicals, many modern electronics applications would be unthinkable.
In fact, Merck is a leading science and technology company; and our Performance Materials business offers a broad range of product solutions that are for example used in displays or computer chips. Our specialty chemicals and technical solutions are an important driver of digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, Big Data, 5G, the Internet of Things, and autonomous driving. That’s why the CES in Las Vegas is now an event that Merck will not miss.
Computer chips in the third dimension
Whether in consumer electronics, household appliances or cars – at the core of nearly every item exhibited at the CES is a computer chip. Above all, applications based on artificial intelligence (AI) rely on increasingly powerful, smaller and more efficient processors. And at the CES, hardly any product dispensed with the label “artificial intelligence”. Robots, smart voice assistants or self-driving cars were the dominant themes of the CES 2019.
Delivering on the promise of “ever faster, ever smaller” in the future calls for the right chemistry. For example, 3D NAND technology makes stacking architectures in memory device manufacturing possible. Now, chipmakers can stack memory cells into the third dimension – not just on the two-dimensional space on the surface as before. Our specialty chemicals are a key element of 3D NAND chips.
Flat, ultra-high def and now also bendable
But products from Performance Materials are used not only inside electronic devices. Our specialty chemical products are also used to make the cameras, fingerprint sensors, housings and the displays of commercially available smartphones. In addition to computer chips, displays are another huge area of application for our products – and they were omnipresent at the CES.
Thinner and thinner televisions, tablets and smartphones with their eye-catching vibrant colors and sharper images featured prominently at the CES exhibition booths. Our technology permits ultrahigh-resolution 8K televisions that display razor-sharp images even with screen diagonals of more than 2 meters. Thanks to our specialty chemicals, we rank among the leading material and solution providers in the liquid crystal and OLED sectors as well. In the display industry, OLEDs, or organic light-emitting diodes, are increasingly gaining in importance.
OLED displays are also pretty interesting for mobile end devices because their thin design leaves more room for batteries, making it possible to increase battery life. I find it pretty fascinating that OLED technology makes bendable displays possible. The first smartphones and tablets with foldable screens have meanwhile reached market readiness.
Demand continues to grow
With a volume totaling more than € 85 billion, the markets for semiconductor and display materials are a key growth driver for Merck. And the future looks very promising: As digitalization continues to advance, the need for increasingly powerful computer chips will grow, and so will the demand for innovative semiconductor materials.
The same applies to display materials. Not just for smartphones, but increasingly for household appliances and cars. Not to mention all the industrial machinery operated via touchscreens. And in consumer electronics, there’s no end in sight in the race to achieve ever sharper display images. In any event, I’m already curious about the innovations that will excite us at next year’s CES!