Scientists from Singapore's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), an institute of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) have created a new polymer with both high charge mobility and high power conversion efficiency for application in both plastic electronics and organic solar cells.
A single polymer that can be used in both new age plastic electronics as well as plastic solar cells could spell greater cost-savings and open up new design options for electronic and solar cell companies. A*STAR's IMRE has developed a new polymer that not only produces a high charge mobility of 0.2 cm2/V.s, which is the same value achieved by commercially available semiconducting materials but also has a high solar power conversion efficiency of 6.3%. This makes IMRE's polymer one of the few that has both these properties. In addition to this, polymers of the same class as IMRE's, which are those that use thiophene and benzothiadiazole as the building blocks, could only achieve 2.2% power conversion.
"Current polymers are usually good in one aspect or another, either as a good conductor for use in electronics or endowed with high power conversion efficiency but not both," said IMRE Senior Scientist, Dr Chen Zhi Kuan, the Principal Researcher working on the polymers. "IMRE's polymer functions not only as a good material to make electronic components, the same material can be used to convert sunlight to electricity efficiently." The polymer can also be easily applied in roll-to-roll printing techniques which is similar to how newspapers are currently printed making it possible to manufacture large area-scale printed electronics and organic solar cells quickly and cheaply.
With IMRE's polymer, manufacturers could save cost using just a single bulk resource for making both printed electronics and organic solar cells. The material could also possibly be used in designing new devices where both power harnessing and electronics are needed in a single component. An example of this would be chemical sensors based on organic thin-film transistors and powered by organic solar cells.
"This breakthrough will help speed up the development of plastic electronics and organic solar cells, and make them more readily available in the marketplace," said Prof Andy Hor, Executive Director of IMRE. Printed electronics often rely on organic materials like polymers that can be easily processed and manufactured as opposed to traditional electronics (or metal electronics) which rely on inorganics such as copper or silicon. The polymers can be made into thinner, lighter and cost-effective electronic components and organic solar cells.
The IMRE team is developing other organic materials-based polymers that can be scaled up to production and integrated easily into organic electronics. These materials can be used to make energy harvesting and low-power consumption devices like low-cost organic solar cells, new flexible display devices, next generation smart labels and RFID tags.
About the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE)
The Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) is a research institute of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). The Institute has capabilities in materials analysis & characterisation, design & growth, patterning & fabrication, and synthesis & integration. They house a range of state-of-the-art equipment for materials research including development, processing and characterisation. IMRE conducts a wide range of research, which includes novel materials for organic solar cells, photovoltaics, printed electronics, catalysis, bio-mimetics, microfluidics, quantum dots, heterostructures, sustainable materials, atom technology, etc.
About the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is one of the leading agencies for fostering world-class scientific research and talent for a vibrant knowledge-based and innovation-driven Singapore. A*STAR oversees 14 biomedical sciences and physical sciences and engineering research institutes, and six consortia & centres, located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis as well as their immediate vicinity. A*STAR supports Singapore's key economic clusters by providing intellectual, human and industrial capital to its partners in industry. It also supports extramural research in the universities, and with other local and international partners.