Dr. Brian Collins and Dr. Harald Ade from the North Carolina State University and Dr. Michael Chabinyc from the University of California Santa Barbara have developed a new X-ray technique to characterize organic polymers in order to facilitate their usability in printable electronics such as solar cells and transistors.
This innovative technique paves the way to develop highly efficient printable electronics at a lower cost. Printable electronics are fabricated by printing or spraying inks composed of conductive organic molecules over a surface. This fabrication technique is a faster and lower cost process than other fabrication methods used for products such as television or computer displays and solar cells.
In the study, the research team explored the reasons behind certain processing steps that produce better devices when compared to others. For this purpose, the team devised the novel technique utilizing X-rays from the Advanced Light Source (ALS) at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to explore the arrangement of single molecules inside the organic polymers. The team discovered that the better performing devices were typified by specific molecular arrangements inside the materials.
Collins explained that in a transistor, the performance improved with increase in the molecular alignment. In a solar cell, molecular alignment at the device’s interface plays a vital role in harvesting light more efficiently. This was the first time where the events had occurred in both cases at the molecular scale. This technique will be helpful to manufacturers and scientists to understand the basics and working principles of materials, which in turn increase commercial feasibility and improve performance.
The study results have been reported in the ‘Nature Materials’ journal.