“We believe it will make a huge difference in organic electronics,”
Researchers in the field of materials science are using a new technique to create “paint-on” plastic electronics that can be used to make popular gadgets less expensive and better for the environment.
Scientists at the University of Michigan (U-M) recently announced that they’ve discovered a way to make unruly semiconducting polymers- like those used in computer processors and LED displays- more manageable.
Most semiconductors used in modern electronics are inorganic, or based on materials other than carbon, like silicon or copper. While inorganic semiconductors do an excellent job of spreading a charge through an electronic device, they’re costly and impossible to produce without specialized equipment.
Organic and plastic semiconductors like the ones used by the U-M researchers, on the other hand, can be prepared on a basic lab bench. However, scientists have found that they’re not as efficient at carrying a charge through an electronic device as their inorganic brethren. Or at least, such was the case until recently.
The new “paintable” semiconducting polymers can be brushed over a surface to create a thin-layer film capable of carrying an uninterrupted charge.
“It’s a big breakthrough,” Jinsang Kim, a professor of materials science and engineering at U-M, said in a statement. “This is for the first time a thin-layer, conducting, highly aligned film for high-performance, paintable, directly writeable plastic electronics.”
The decision to create a liquid polymer solution led to some interesting opportunities for innovation by Kim and his fellow researchers. First, they designed the polymers to be slippery because, as Kim explained, ordinary polymers glom together like “flat noodles left in the fridge.”
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