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Organic Semiconductor Could Lead to Biodegradable Devices

Engineers at The Australian National University have invented a semiconductor with organic and inorganic materials that can convert electricity into light efficiently and is thin and flexible enough to make mobile phones bendable.

The invention also opens the door to a new generation of high-performance electronic devices made with organic materials that will be biodegradable or that can be easily recycled, promising to help substantially reduce e-waste. Australia produces 200,000 tonnes of e-waste every year. Only 4% of this waste is recycled.

The organic component of the semiconductor is just one atom thick, while the inorganic component has the thickness of around two atoms. The hybrid structure can convert electricity into light efficiently for displays on mobile phones, televisions and other electronic devices.

“For the first time, we have developed an ultra-thin electronics component with excellent semiconducting properties that is an organic–inorganic hybrid structure and thin and flexible enough for future technologies, such as bendable mobile phones and display screens,” said lead senior researcher A/Prof Larry Lu.

PhD researcher Ankur Sharma said experiments demonstrated the performance of their semiconductor would be much more efficient than conventional semiconductors made with inorganic materials such as silicon. “We have the potential with this semiconductor to make mobile phones as powerful as today’s supercomputers,” Sharma said.

“The light emission from our semiconducting structure is very sharp, so it can be used for high-resolution displays and, since the materials are ultra-thin, they have the flexibility to be made into bendable screens and mobile phones in the near future.”

The team grew the organic semiconductor component molecule-by-molecule, in a similar way to 3D printing. The process is called chemical vapour deposition.

The development was announced in Advanced Materials (https://goo.gl/7bpucW).