New organic material to unlock faster electronic devices

New organic material to unlock faster electronic devices

An organic material that is thin, bendable and powerful could be used to create the next generation of mobile phones and other electronic devices, according to a study led by The Australian National University (ANU) and published in the journal Nature: Light Science & Applications.

In 2018, the team invented a semiconductor with organic and inorganic materials that could convert electricity into light very efficiently — and was thin and flexible enough to help make devices such as mobile phones bendable. Now they’ve been able to improve the organic part of the material, allowing them to completely remove the inorganic component.

Lead researchers Dr Ankur Sharma and Associate Professor Larry Lu, both from ANU, say their material will help create the next generation of ultrafast electronic chips, which promise to be much faster than the current electronic chips we use.

“Conventional devices run on electricity — but this material allows us to use light or photons, which travels much faster,” Dr Sharma said. “The interesting properties we have observed in this material make it a contender for superfast electronic processors and chips.”

Assoc Prof Lu said the researchers observed functions and capabilities in their organic material that were previously unseen, and should help to achieve ultrafast electronic devices. They were also able to control the growth of their novel organic semiconductor material by stacking one molecule precisely over the other.

“The material is just one carbon atom thick, a hundred times thinner than a human hair, which gives it the flexibility to be bent into any shape. This will lead to its application in flexible electronic devices,” Assoc Prof Lu said.

Dr Sharma noted that the removal of the inorganic component means the material is made from “just carbon and hydrogen”, which would mean devices could be biodegradable or easily recyclable — thus avoiding the tonnes of e-waste generated by current-generation electronics. And while he acknowledged that actual devices might still be some way off, the new study provides a demonstration of the organic material’s immense capabilities.

“We now have the perfect building block to achieve flexible next generation electronics,” he said.

Image caption: Associate Professor Larry Lu and Dr Ankur Sharma. Image credit: Jack Fox, ANU.

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