31 May 2024

Air-Enhanced Sustainable Electronics: The Next Generation

Semiconductors are the foundation of all modern electronics.

Originally a press relase written by Anders Törneholm, Linköping University.
Image by Thor Balkhed, Linköping University.

Now, WISE-affiliated researchers at Linköping University have developed a new method where organic semiconductors can become more conductive with the help of air as a dopant. The study, published in the journal Nature, is a significant step towards future cheap and sustainable organic semiconductors.

-We are excited by the prospect that photocatalytic doping of organic semiconductors brings, making the future of organic electronics both sustainable and scalable, says Simone Fabiano, Associate Professor at Linköping University and WISE-affiliated researcher.

Semiconductors based on conductive plastics instead of silicon have many potential applications. Among other things, organic semiconductors can be used in digital displays, solar cells, LEDs, sensors, implants, and for energy storage.

To enhance conductivity and modify semiconductor properties, so-called dopants are typically introduced.

Now, researchers at Linköping University have developed a doping method that can be performed at room temperature, where inefficient dopants such as oxygen are the primary dopant, and light activates the doping process.

–Our approach was inspired by nature, as it shares many analogies with photosynthesis, for example. In our method, light activates a photocatalyst, which then facilitates electron transfer from a typically inefficient dopant to the organic semiconductor material, says Simone.

The doped organic semiconductor has better conductivity than traditional semiconductors, and the process can be scaled up. Simone Fabiano and his research group at the Laboratory of Organic Electronics showed earlier in 2024 how conductive plastics could be processed from environmentally friendly solvents like water; this is their next step.

–We are at the beginning of trying to fully understand the mechanism behind it and what other potential application areas exist. But it’s a very promising approach showing that photocatalytic doping is a new cornerstone in organic electronics, continues Simone.

The original publication in the journal Nature, Photocatalytic doping of organic semiconductorscan be found at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-024-07400-5
(open access).

Water-based n-type conductive polymer inks