New Plastic Semiconductors Break Speed Record
Researchers have developed an ultra-thin plastic that allows an electrical
charge to pass through it at speeds never before seen, a discovery that could
dramatically drive down the cost of flat-panel monitors and other devices.
The plastic, which resembles cellophane when applied to electronic components,
could one day replace the chemicals used to manufacture monitors and so-called
radio frequency identification chips, which are used to keep track of store
inventories, fleets of trucks and herds of cattle.
Researchers have long searched for alternatives to the silicon-based material
used in today's devices. The plastic material, known as liquid-crystalline polymers,
have been viewed as a key contender, but until now electrical charges haven't
been able to travel through it at speeds required by electronic devices.
But a team of scientists led by Ian McCulloch of Merck Chemicals in the United
Kingdom, has found a way to boost electrical performance in polymers six-fold,
putting the substance on par with so-called amorphous silicon.
The discovery, published online this week by the journal Nature Materials,
could lead to new methods for making monitors and other types of electronic
Instead of using a costly vacuum process to coat silicon on large panes of
glass, manufacturers could spray a liquid polymer on tiny plastic parts, in
much the way the nozzle of an inkjet printer sprays ink on paper.
"It's a radically different manufacturing process," said Michael
McGehee, one of the study's authors and a professor in Stanford University's
Materials Science and Engineering Department.