CAREER: An Integrated Research and Education Program in Engineering Functional Block Copolymers (University of Texas at Austin)
A Princeton University researcher has created a technique to fabricate plastics for electronic devices that increases the plastics' electrical conductivity by hundreds of times.
The simple processing method may significantly reduce fabrication costs of solar panels and other electronic devices. Integrating the plastics into biomedical sensors may fill a void in developing countries that lack advanced medical facilities.
Conductive plastics have a long history, but processing them into useful components reduces their ability to conduct electricity. The researchers discovered that conventional molding techniques tend to freeze the polymer molecules into rigid, unfavorable shapes for conducting electricity. In the Princeton approach, an acid bath after molding relaxes the molecules, allowing them to adopt more effective shapes for transporting electrical charges. Plastics that are bendable, transparent and electrically conductive could replace expensive indium tin oxide currently used as the conductive material in such products as solar panels, flat-screen televisions, and mobile phones.
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