Organic thin-films for flexible electronics

Imagine a book – an e-book, that looks like a flat piece of bendable plastic but when switched on displays the text and images of a book. Imagine flipping the page by simply bending the sheet. This is no longer a science fiction fantasy: it is being made possible through the development of organic thin-films.

Organic polymer thin-film production is a multi-disciplinary research project at JCU. Dr Mohan Jacob leads the Electronic Material Research Group, whose members are drawn from Engineering, Chemistry, Physics and Medicine.

The discovery that certain modified plastics can transmit electricity has excited research interest in developing electronic devices such as organic light-emitting devices (LEDs), organic thin-film transistors and organic photo detectors. These possibilities arise from the promise of being able to fine-tune the electrical and optical characteristics of the organic materials. There are also processing advantages such as fabrication at relatively low temperatures and using simple techniques like ink-jet printing.

These advantages will soon lead to the use of organic electronic devices in applications that are currently difficult or costly to achieve, like displays and sensor arrays on flexible or curved surfaces, such as e-books with roll-out screens. The search is now on for suitable materials to use in integrated circuit technology to replace conventional silicon-based technology.

To create semiconductor membranes, the Electronic Material Research Group designed a “plasma polymerisation” facility to create organic polymer thin-films. Plasma polymerisation is a powerful method to lay down a uniform thin layer of organic materials whose structure can be adjusted by changing a range of deposition parameters. The main assets of organic polymer thin-films are their resistance to heat and to aggressive chemicals, and their extreme thinness, typically between 200 and 800 nanometres (one million nanometres = one millimetre).

With support from the Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation, the group is attempting to fabricate high quality plasma polymerised thin-films using Australian essential oils as natural sources. Pinene from pine resin, limonene from citrus peel and tea tree oil were tested to see if they were suitable for polymerisation.

The cheaper pine and citrus oils produced membranes under the most ideal laboratory conditions, although their surface remained too rough. The polymer thin-films derived from tea tree oil, on the other hand, were as smooth as glass. Therefore, tea tree oil based thin-films appear to be good candidates for further development, with a focus on biomedical applications.

Contact: Dr Mohan Jacob

source: James Cook University – Australia

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~ by vascoteixeira on November 30, 2010.

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