A revolution is coming in flexible electronic technologies as cheaper, more flexible, organic transistors come on the scene to replace expensive, rigid, silicone-based semiconductors, but not enough is known about how bending in these new thin-film electronic devices will affect their performance, say materials scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Writing in the current issue of Nature Communications, polymer scientists Alejandro Briseño and Alfred Crosby at UMass Amherst, with their doctoral student Marcos Reyes-Martinez, now a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton, report results of their recent investigation of how micro-scale wrinkling affects electrical performance in carbon-based, single-crystal semiconductors.
They are the first to apply inhomogeneous deformations, that is strain, to the conducting channel of an organic transistor and to understand the observed effects, says Reyes-Martinez, who conducted the series of experiments as part of his doctoral work.
As he explains, "This is relevant to today's tech industry because transistors drive the logic of all the consumer electronics we use. In the screen on your smart phone, for example, every little pixel that makes up the image is turned on and off by hundreds of thousands or even millions of miniaturized transistors."
"Traditionally, the transistors are rigid, made of an inorganic material such as silicon," he adds. "We're working with a crystalline semiconductor called rubrene, which is an organic, carbon-based material that has performance factors, such as charge-carrier mobility, surpassing those measured in amorphous silicon. Organic semiconductors are an interesting alternative to silicon because their properties can be tuned to make them easily processed, allowing them to coat a variety of surfaces, including soft substrates at relatively low temperatures. As a result, devices based on organic semiconductors are projected to be cheaper since they do not require high temperatures, clean rooms and expensive processing steps like silicon does."