California-based firm Shrink Nanotechnologies has signed a multi-year license for the University of Chicago’s so-called electronic glue. The deal covers all but thermo-electric applications of the glue, which has the potential to bring down the cost of many semiconductor devices including computer chips and solar cells.
The research was published in Science in June 2009. The researchers explained that the cost of large semi-conductor crystals made large scale applications – like solar panels – prohibitively expensive. Enter nanocrystals, which can be mass produced by inkjet printing, among other techniques, and are especially applicable to printed semiconductors, roll-to-roll printed solar cells and printed nano-sensors.
But this approach, albeit cheaper, has problems too, the researchers explain back in 2009:
The crystals are unable to efficiently transfer their electric charges to one another due to surface ligands—bulky, insulating organic molecules that cap nanocrystals. The "electronic glue" developed in Dmitri Talapin's laboratory at the University of Chicago solves the ligand problem. The team describes in the journal Science how substituting the insulating organic molecules with novel inorganic molecules dramatically increases the electronic coupling between nanocrystals.
Shrink’s CEO Mark Baum says his firm has been working on nanocrystal technology since the company was founded.
“We have an appreciation of the shortcomings of nanocrystals for these 'killer apps' like solar cells and other large market semiconductor applications,” he says in the press release. “We believe what we have is the potential to build low-cost tunable solid-state semiconductors which perform like bulk semiconductors, but which maintain all of the tremendous benefits that semiconductor nanocrystals offer."