ANU researchers crack next stage of flexible semiconductor development

The university said the organic material puts them a step closer to developing bendable electronic devices, such as mobile phones.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Researchers from the Australian University (ANU) have developed a thin, bendable, organic semiconductor material that could potentially be used in mobile phones and other electronic devices.

Lead researchers Ankur Sharma and Larry Lu explained how the semiconductor would be used to help create ultra-fast electronic chips.

"Conventional devices run on electricity -- but this material allows us to use light or photons, which travels much faster," Sharma said.  

"The interesting properties we have observed in this material make it a contender for super-fast electronic processors and chips. 

"We now have the perfect building block, to achieve flexible next generation electronics."

The material, according to Lu, is a hundred one carbon atom thick, which is equivalent to being "a hundred times thinner than a human hair", and has the ability to be bent into any shape.

"The capabilities we observed in this material that can help us achieve ultra-fast electronic devices," Lu said.

See also: Forecast: 240 million devices will have flexible or foldable screens by 2028 (TechRepublic)

The development of this semiconductor builds on the team's invention of a semiconductor back in 2018. However, unlike this newest material, which uses organic material, the one developed two years ago compromised of both organic and inorganic elements.

In this latest research, the engineers were able to improve the organic part of the material, which allowed them to completely remove the inorganic component.

"It's made from just carbon and hydrogen, which would mean devices can be biodegradable or easily recyclable, thus avoiding the tonnes of e-waste generated by current generation electronic devices," Sharma said. 

Sharma added while the actual devices might still be some way off, the study demonstrated the material's potential capabilities.

Just last week, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Melbourne-based company Boron Molecular, and South Korean manufacturing firm Kyung-In Synthetic Corporation (KISCO) signed an agreement to commercialise polymer material for flexible electronics like phone screens, and other applications in health, industry, and agriculture. 

Under the agreement, Boron Molecular and KISCO will use a suite of CSIRO technologies to manufacture what they've dubbed as "high purity precision engineered polymers". 

The CSIRO processes and technologies that will be used by Boron Molecular include reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) to enable the production of polymers; flow chemistry, a process that is used to create flexible electronics using polymers; metal organic frameworks that absorb molecules and harvest water from air; and MS3 art conservation resin. 


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