Adding a Polymer to Improve Printed ElectronicsCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: April 27, 2012 06:41PM
One of the promising features of organic electronics, such as organic solar cells and OLEDs, is that they can be printed like a newspaper. Using large rollers, all of the components can be pressed into a flexible substrate and give you a flexible and fully functional piece of technology. Getting to that end though is proving difficult because of how sensitive some of the materials involved are. For example, conductors are occasionally made of calcium, magnesium, or lithium, which are all very reactive. (Lithium, for example, must be kept submerged in non-reactive oil, or it will react with air.) Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have discovered a way to improve other conductors, which are less reactive.
By coating the conductor in a thin layer of polymer, a strong surface dipole is made, which improves conductivity. Fortunately the polymer used in the experiments is not only inexpensive but also compatible with current roll-to-roll production methods used to print electronics. The researchers used this to create the world’s first completely plastic solar panel, which is shown above.
This method works with many conductors, including silver, gold, and aluminum, which vary in cost, as well as transparent metal-oxides and graphene. With so many materials able to benefit from this, we can definitely expect this discovery to impact future technologies.