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Paint-On Plastic Electronics: Aligning Polymers For High Performance

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A doctoral students sets up the equipment to apply plastic semiconductors.

Macromolecular Science & Engineering Ph.D. student Kyeongwoon Chung sets up the contact coater to align the surfaces properly for the application of high-performance plastic semiconductors.

Credit: Joseph Xu/Michigan Engineering

University of Michigan researchers have developed a method for getting semiconducting polymers to line up, which they say could lead to less expensive, greener, and "paint-on" plastic electronics.

"This is for the first time a thin-layer, conducting, highly aligned film for high-performance, paintable, directly writeable plastic electronics," says Michigan professor Jinsang Kim.

The problem with conventional semiconductors is that charge carriers cannot move through plastics as easily as they can through inorganic semiconductors. "Charge mobility along the polymer chains is much faster than between the polymers," Kim says.

The researchers solved this problem by designing the polymers to be slippery and have a natural twist, which keeps them from sticking to one another in the solution. However, in order to align during the brushstroke, the polymers needed to attract one another, so the researchers designed the polymer to untwist as the solvent dried.

"We established a complete molecular design principle of semiconducting polymers with directed alignment capability," Kim says.

The method enables charge carriers to move 1,000 times faster in the direction parallel to the silicon blade's brushstroke than they did when crossing the direction of the stroke.

From University of Michigan News Service
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