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Published: Friday, 10/24/2003

BGSU celebrates a high-tech success story


BOWLING GREEN - It is a Silicon Valley start-up with an office in Taiwan and plans to mass-produce chemically-coated thin plastic sheets that could one-day replace TV screens.

But the focus here yesterday was on the SiPix Group's ties to Bowling Green State University. Four of the firm's scientists are graduates of the school's PhD program in photochemical sciences, which celebrated its 10th anniversary by inviting alumni to return to campus for a reception.

“... Our alumni are entering companies... that make the tools for the communications revolution,” said Douglas Neckers, executive director of BGSU's Center for Photochemical Sciences.

The program has awarded 55 PhD and master's degrees and provided post-doctoral training to 100 students over the past decade.

A dozen alumni attended, with many bringing products produced by their firms.

SiPix, whose vice chairman and chief technology officer, R.C. Liang, is on the board of the BGSU program, brought a clock whose time display is produced on “electronic paper” made by SiPix.

Shawn Gettemy, a spokesman for the firm that is based in Milpitas, Calif., said use of the product to produce TV images is a long way off and may never be possible.

But the company, which has a factory in Fremont, Calif., is negotiating to sell the product to firms interesting in using it for smart cards and product price tags. Electronic price tag systems produced by the prospective customer would make it easy for retailers to raise or lower prices, Mr. Gettemy explained.

Outdoor billboards are another potential use, he said.

The basic technology used by SiPix has been around since 1969, and the firm has competitors. But executives believe they have made manufacturing advances that will make it more marketable. Its factory can produce 20 feet of the film, which is 14 inches wide, in a minute.

The SiPix product is flexible, inexpensive to produce, and energy efficient, backers said.

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