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An Iowa State chemist is researching organic polymers that mimic the properties of traditional inorganic semiconductors potentially making 'plastics electronics' applicable in applications like organic solar cells, light-emitting diodes, and thin-film transistors.

PlasticsToday Staff

April 29, 2011

1 Min Read
Organic polymers mimic inorganic semiconductors for plastic electronics

Malika Jeffries-EL, an Iowa State assistant professor of chemistry, is working with a variety of benzobisazoles, molecules that are well suited for electrical applications because of their conductivity, or ability to efficiently transport electrons. In addition, the benzobisazoles are stable at high temperatures and can absorb photons.

In the abstract of a presentation Jeffries-EL will present on May 20 at the University of Cincinnati, the professor notes that as a class of materials, polybenzobisazoles "possess many exceptional electronic, optical, and thermal properties and thus are ideally suited for diverse organic semiconducting applications, yet these materials have found limited utility due their lack of solubility in organic solvents."

Jeffries-EL is working with a post-doctoral researcher and nine doctoral students to investigate the relationship between polymer structures and the electronic, physical, and optical properties of the materials. An additional research focus involves finding ways to synthesize the polymers without the use of acids and heat by making them soluble in organic solvents.

The ability to shift the benzobisazoles chemical synthesis differentiates it from silicon and other inorganic semiconductor materials. "Silicon is silicon," Jeffries-EL noted in a Iowa State press release. "Elements are constant."

Jeffries-EL's polymer research has won backing from The National Science Foundation through a five-year, $486,250 Faculty Early Career Development grant. She also has received financial support from the Iowa Power Fund, a state program that supports energy innovation and independence, for her work to apply organic semiconductor technology to solar cells.

Her research has also been featured in several peer-reviewed papers over the past two years in Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, Macromolecules, the Journal of Polymer Science Part A: Polymer Chemistry, and the Journal of Organic Chemistry

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