Printable Flexible Electronics.

"These polymers are inexpensive, environmentally friendly and compatible with existent roll-to-roll mass production techniques," said Bernard Kippelen, director of Georgia Tech's Center for Organic Photonics and Electronics (COPE). "Replacing the reactive metals with stable conductors, including conducting polymers, completely changes the requirements of how electronics are manufactured and protected. Their use can pave the way for lower cost and more flexible devices.

After L G Display’s bendy e-books, paper thin TV and solar cells? Probably so according two recent and separate high-tech developments. What is happening now in the world of carbon nano-technology and graphene, will alter the way the next generation of electronics function and are built. Imagine the weight savings to an electric vehicle that operates on next generation battery power, consumed by printable flexible electronics. Or the savings to electric distribution and consumption used on of ships.  Space travel, and next generation space suits. Our late decade and the next, will usher in the new super-carbon age, as different from medieval times as the arrival of electric power was in the 19th century. Don't be fooled by the micro amounts used in the experiments, just as the mid 19th century experimentors under estimated the explosion in demand for copper that would result, we are headed towards a 21st century explosion in demand for graphite/graphene.

While the second development below has farther to travel to reach commercial exploitation, both have  their place in our arriving super-carbon age. Thankfully, China can’t control global access to the graphite needed to exploit our new super-carbon age, nor control the intellectual property involved in rolling out that exploitation. Best of all, we probably haven’t really seen anything yet.

TV as Thin as a Sheet of Paper? Printable Flexible Electronics Just Became Easier With Stable Electrodes
ScienceDaily (Apr. 19, 2012) — Imagine owning a television with the thickness and weight of a sheet of paper. It will be possible, someday, thanks to the growing industry of printed electronics. The process, which allows manufacturers to literally print or roll materials onto surfaces to produce an electronically functional device, is already used in organic solar cells and organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) that form the displays of cellphones.

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Although this emerging technology is expected to grow by tens of billions of dollars over the next 10 years, one challenge is in manufacturing at low cost in ambient conditions. In order to create light or energy by injecting or collecting electrons, printed electronics require conductors, usually calcium, magnesium or lithium, with a low-work function. These metals are chemically very reactive. They oxidize and stop working if exposed to oxygen and moisture. This is why electronics in solar cells and TVs, for example, must be covered with a rigid, thick barrier such as glass or expensive encapsulation layers.

However, in new findings published in the journal Science, Georgia Tech researchers have introduced what appears to be a universal technique to reduce the work function of a conductor. They spread a very thin layer of a polymer, approximately one to 10 nanometers thick, on the conductor's surface to create a strong surface dipole. The interaction turns air-stable conductors into efficient, low-work function electrodes.

—-"The polymer modifier reduces the work function in a wide range of conductors, including silver, gold and aluminum," noted Seth Marder, associate director of COPE and professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. "The process is also effective in transparent metal-oxides and graphene."

Self-Assembling Highly Conductive Plastic Nanofibers
ScienceDaily (Apr. 22, 2012) — Researchers from CNRS and the Université de Strasbourg, headed by Nicolas Giuseppone (1) and Bernard Doudin (2), have succeeded in making highly conductive plastic fibers that are only several nanometers thick. These nanowires, for which CNRS has filed a patent, "self-assemble" when triggered by a flash of light. Inexpensive and easy to handle, unlike carbon nanotubes (3), they combine the advantages of the two materials currently used to conduct electric current: metals and plastic organic polymers (4). In fact, their remarkable electrical properties are similar to those of metals.

In addition, they are light and flexible like plastics, which opens up the possibility of meeting one of the most important challenges of 21st century electronics: miniaturizing components down to the nanometric scale. This work is published on 22 April 2012 on Nature Chemistry's website. The next step is to demonstrate that these fibers can be industrially integrated within electronic devices such as flexible screens, solar cells, etc.


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Alessandro Bruno

About Alessandro Bruno

Alessandro Bruno holds a BA, MA. He has worked for the United Nations in Libya and specialized in Middle Eastern, African, and South American affairs. Alessandro has worked as an industry analyst, lived and worked abroad extensively and is fluent in English, Italian, Spanish and French with a working knowledge of Portuguese, Arabic and German.

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