Soft electronic devices, such as a smartphone on the wrist and a folding screen in the pocket could be possible in the near future if researchers can develop a process to create electronic devices from soft organic materials rather than the currently used stiff inorganic materials.
Potential candidate for use in the creation of these innovative soft electronics are conducting polymers, as they are lightweight, malleable, and can transmit electricity, although their charge carrier mobility is fundamentally lower than that of inorganic materials.
Several studies have focused on ways to enhance the speed at which the charge carriers travel in conducting polymers. Researchers have tried to improve the charge carrier mobility by enhancing the “crystallinity” (degree of structural order) of polymers.
This technique is essentially restrictive in terms of mechanical properties. Simply put, an increase in the crystallinity causes a decrease of the mechanical resilience, at least according to the traditional standard.
Researchers from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) have discovered a way to unravel this dilemma by developing a low crystalline conducting polymer that displays high-field effect mobility.
Their research details have been published as the cover article in the Journal of American Chemical Society and highlighted in the Spotlights. The team consists of Professors Taiho Park and Chan Eon Park along with their students Sung Yun Son and Yebyeol Kim.
The team used an unconventional technique to enhance charge movement in a low-crystalline conducting polymer. They added monomers without side chains into the polymer and used unique localized aggregates such as stepping-stones to speed up charge transport in the polymer’s microstructure. Park et al. discovered that the resulting increase in the chain connectivity and backbone planarity of the polymer enabled better charge transport between and along the polymer chains.
Their findings offer a better understanding of charge transport dynamics in low-crystalline conducting polymers as well as a new approach in molecular design that promotes quicker charge movement without the loss of mechanical benefits.
The research’s corresponding authors, Taiho Park and Chan Eon Park hope that their work paves the way for several possibilities and will yield solutions, new research, and applications in soft electronics.