In the quest for flexibility many researchers have been experimenting with semiconductors made from plastics or, more accurately polymers, which bend and stretch readily enough.
"But at the molecular level polymers look like a bowl of spaghetti," says
Spakowitz and two colleagues,
Their theory, published (Monday Sept 23@12 pm PST) in the Proceedings of the
In other words, the entangled structure that allows plastics and other polymers to bend also impedes their ability to conduct electricity, whereas the regular structure that makes silicon semiconductors such great electrical switches tends to make it a bad fit for our back pockets.
In essence, the variability of electron flow through polymeric semiconductors owes to the way the structure of these molecular chains creates fast paths and congestion points (refer to diagram). In a stylized sense imagine that a polymer chain runs relatively straight before coming to a hairpin turn to form a U-shape. An electric field moves electrons rapidly up to the hairpin, only to stall.
Meanwhile imagine a similar U-shape polymer separated from the first by a tiny gap. Eventually, the electrons will jump that gap to go from the first fast path to the opposing fast path. One way to think about this is a traffic analogy, in which the electrons must wait for a traffic light to cross from one street, though the gap, before proceeding down the next.
Most importantly, perhaps, in terms of putting this knowledge to use, the
"There are many, many types of monomers and many variables in the process," Spakowitz said. The model presented by the
"A simple theory that works is a good start," said Spakowitz, who envisions much work ahead to bring bending smart phones and folding e-readers to reality.
Keywords for this news article include: Electronics, Semiconductor,
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