USA : Packing semiconductors for electrical efficiency

electrical efficency, organic semiconductor, solar, solar pannel Scientists in the United States believe they have found a way of improving the electrical efficiency of semiconductors. Researchers at Stanford University claim that by packing molecules closer together in organic semiconductors, the electrical conductivity of the units can be dramatically improved.

The team of chemical engineers, led by Zhenan Bao, has just published its findings in a paper in the scientific journal Nature. According to the scientists, the discovery could herald flexible electronic devices, more efficient solar panels and other advances including better quality television screens.

The potential use of organic semiconductors had already been mooted in scientific circles. The main hindrance to continued research was that the organic semiconductors did not conduct electricity very well.

Packing in

Now the researchers at Stanford believe they have started to surmount this obstacle by packing the molecules closer together while the semiconductor crystals are in the process of forming. The engineers have dubbed this technique “straining the lattice.” Bao and her fellow scientists claim to have more than doubled the previously recorded electrical conductivity of an organic semiconductor and have demonstrated an eleven-fold improvement over the same conductor’s unstrained lattices.

Strained lattices are no secret,” said Bao. “We’ve known about their favorable electrical properties for decades and they are in use in today’s silicon computer chips, but no one has been successful in creating a stable strained lattice organic semiconductor with a very short distance between molecules, until now ” she added. “In the past, engineers have tried to compress the lattices in these materials by synthetically growing the crystals under great pressure. But, as soon as you release the pressure, the crystal just goes back to its natural, unstrained state. We’ve been able to stabilize these crystals in tighter formations than ever before.”

Quickly offer practical applications

The team used a solution-shearing technique which is similar to the coating process used in the semiconductor industry. Bao said this is crucial: “Using a process so similar to current industry technology is important, as it could speed these new semiconductors to market.”

In order to measure and visualize the tiny lattices, Bao’s team was assisted by Stanford staff scientist and x-ray scattering expert Stefan Mannsfeld, who co-authored the Nature paper. “We have been able to improve how we analyze the relative brightness of the peaks we can see in X-ray diffraction images. Previously this was only possible when analyzing relatively big single crystals, but we have, for the first time, been able to duplicate this for very thin films of these crystals” said Mannsfeld.

It is hoped the new breakthroughs could ultimately herald the development of new technology such as foldable smartphones and solar clothing that turns sunlight into electricity for mobile devices.

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