Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Plastic electronics could slash the cost of solar panels

Princeton researchers have developed a new way to manufacture electronic devices made of plastic, employing a process that allows the materials to be formed into useful shapes while maintaining their ability to conduct electricity. In the plastic transistor pictured here, the plastic is molded into interdigitated electrodes (orange) allowing current flow to and from the active channel (green). Image: Loo Research Group
Princeton researchers have developed a new way to manufacture electronic devices made of plastic, employing a process that allows the materials to be formed into useful shapes while maintaining their ability to conduct electricity. In the plastic transistor pictured here, the plastic is molded into interdigitated electrodes (orange) allowing current flow to and from the active channel (green). Image: Loo Research Group

Abstract:
A new technique developed by Princeton University engineers for producing electricity-conducting plastics could dramatically lower the cost of manufacturing solar panels.

By Chris Emery

Plastic electronics could slash the cost of solar panels

Princeton, NJ | Posted on April 2nd, 2010

By overcoming technical hurdles to producing plastics that are translucent, malleable and able to conduct electricity, the researchers have opened the door to broader use of the materials in a wide range of electrical devices.

With mounting concerns about global warming and energy demand, plastics could represent a low-cost alternative to indium tin oxide (ITO), an expensive conducting material currently used in solar panels, according to the researchers.

"Conductive polymers [plastics] have been around for a long time, but processing them to make something useful degraded their ability to conduct electricity," said Yueh-Lin Loo, an associate professor of chemical engineering, who led the Princeton team. "We have figured out how to avoid this trade-off. We can shape the plastics into a useful form while maintaining high conductivity."

A multi-institutional team reported on its new technique in a paper published online March 8 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The area of research, known as "organic electronics" because plastics are carbon-based like living creatures, holds promise for producing new types of electronic devices and new ways of manufacturing existing technologies, but has been hampered by the mysterious loss of conductivity associated with moldable plastics.

"People didn't understand what was happening," said Loo, who co-wrote the paper. "We discovered that in making the polymers moldable, their structures are trapped in a rigid form, which prevented electrical current from traveling through them."

Once they understood the underlying problem, Loo and her colleagues developed a way to relax the structure of the plastics by treating them with an acid after they were processed into the desired form.

Using the method, they were able to make a plastic transistor, a fundamental component of electronics that is used to amplify and switch electronic signals. They produced the electrodes of the transistor by printing the plastic onto a surface, a fast and cheap method similar to the way an ink-jet printer produces a pattern on a piece of paper.

Loo said the technique potentially could be scaled up for mass production presses akin to those used to print newspapers. "Being able to essentially paint on electronics is a big deal," Loo said. "You could distribute the plastics in cartridges the way printer ink is sold, and you wouldn't need exotic machines to print the patterns."

By allowing plastic solar cells to be manufactured using low-cost printing techniques and by replacing ITO as the primary conducting material, the plastics the team developed hold potential for lowering the cost of solar panels.

Currently, the electricity generated by plastic solar cells is collected by a transparent metal conductor made of ITO. The conductor must be transparent so that sunlight can pass through it to the materials in solar cells that absorb the light energy.

A rare and pricey byproduct of mining, ITO had come under increasing demand for use in flat-screen televisions, mobile phones and other devices with display screens. "The cost of indium tin oxide is skyrocketing," Loo said. "To bring down the costs of plastic solar cells, we need to find a replacement for ITO. Our conducting plastics allow sunlight to pass through them, making them a viable alternative."

The researchers anticipate that the plastics also could replace expensive metals used in other electronic devices, such as flexible displays. In addition, the scientists are beginning to explore the use of the plastics in biomedical sensors that would display a certain color if a person had an infection. For instance, the plastics turn from yellow to green when exposed to nitric oxide, a chemical compound produced during ear infections in children.

If the devices could be produced at a low cost, they might be useful in developing countries that lack advanced medical facilities. "You wouldn't need any fancy machines or lab equipment to diagnose an infection," Loo said, "all you would need is your eyes to see the color change in the plastics."

The co-authors of the paper were Joung Eun Yoo, who received her doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of Texas-Austin in 2009 with Loo as her adviser; Kimberly Baldwin, a high school student who spent a summer in Loo's lab; Jacob Tarver, a Princeton chemical engineering graduate student; Enrique Gomez of Pennsylvania State University; Kwang Seok Lee and Yangming Sun of the University of Texas-Austin; Andres Garcia and Thuc-Quyen Nguyen of the University of California-Santa Barbara; and Hong Meng of DuPont Central Research and Development.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the W.M. Keck Foundation and the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation.

####

About Princeton University
Princeton University is a vibrant community of scholarship and learning that stands in the nation's service and in the service of all nations. Chartered in 1746, Princeton is the fourth-oldest college in the United States. Princeton is an independent, coeducational, nondenominational institution that provides undergraduate and graduate instruction in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and engineering.

As a world-renowned research university, Princeton seeks to achieve the highest levels of distinction in the discovery and transmission of knowledge and understanding. At the same time, Princeton is distinctive among research universities in its commitment to undergraduate teaching.

Today, more than 1,100 faculty members instruct approximately 5,000 undergraduate students and 2,500 graduate students. The University's generous financial aid program ensures that talented students from all economic backgrounds can afford a Princeton education.

For more information, please click here

Copyright © Princeton University

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Oxford Instruments announces Dr Brad Ramshaw of Cornell University, as winner of the 2017 Lee Osheroff Richardson Science Prize February 20th, 2017

Nominations Invited for $250,000 Kabiller Prize in Nanoscience: Major international prize recognizes a visionary nanotechnology researcher February 20th, 2017

Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms: In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport February 20th, 2017

'Lossless' metamaterial could boost efficiency of lasers and other light-based devices February 20th, 2017

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

'Lossless' metamaterial could boost efficiency of lasers and other light-based devices February 20th, 2017

Engineers shrink microscope to dime-sized device February 17th, 2017

Francis Alexander Named Deputy Director of Brookhaven Lab's Computational Science Initiative February 16th, 2017

Good vibrations help reveal molecular details: Rice University scientists combine disciplines to pinpoint small structures in unlabeled molecules February 15th, 2017

Possible Futures

Nominations Invited for $250,000 Kabiller Prize in Nanoscience: Major international prize recognizes a visionary nanotechnology researcher February 20th, 2017

Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms: In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport February 20th, 2017

'Lossless' metamaterial could boost efficiency of lasers and other light-based devices February 20th, 2017

Particles from outer space are wreaking low-grade havoc on personal electronics February 19th, 2017

Academic/Education

Nominations Invited for $250,000 Kabiller Prize in Nanoscience: Major international prize recognizes a visionary nanotechnology researcher February 20th, 2017

Oxford Nanoimaging report on how the Nanoimager, a desktop microscope delivering single molecule, super-resolution performance, is being applied at the MRC Centre for Molecular Bacteriology & Infection November 22nd, 2016

The University of Applied Sciences in Upper Austria uses Deben tensile stages as an integral part of their computed tomography research and testing facility October 18th, 2016

Enterprise In Space Partners with Sketchfab and 3D Hubs for NewSpace Education October 13th, 2016

Announcements

Oxford Instruments announces Dr Brad Ramshaw of Cornell University, as winner of the 2017 Lee Osheroff Richardson Science Prize February 20th, 2017

Nominations Invited for $250,000 Kabiller Prize in Nanoscience: Major international prize recognizes a visionary nanotechnology researcher February 20th, 2017

Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms: In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport February 20th, 2017

'Lossless' metamaterial could boost efficiency of lasers and other light-based devices February 20th, 2017

Energy

'Lossless' metamaterial could boost efficiency of lasers and other light-based devices February 20th, 2017

In-cell molecular sieve from protein crystal February 14th, 2017

NREL research pinpoints promise of polycrystalline perovskites February 8th, 2017

Metallic hydrogen, once theory, becomes reality: Harvard physicists succeed in creating 'the holy grail of high-pressure physics' January 28th, 2017

Solar/Photovoltaic

'Lossless' metamaterial could boost efficiency of lasers and other light-based devices February 20th, 2017

Material can turn sunlight, heat and movement into electricity -- all at once: Extracting energy from multiple sources could help power wearable technology February 9th, 2017

NREL research pinpoints promise of polycrystalline perovskites February 8th, 2017

A big nano boost for solar cells: Kyoto University and Osaka Gas effort doubles current efficiencies January 21st, 2017

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project