Plastic electronics promise to enable flexible,
inexpensive devices from electronic paper to smart clothing. Researchers
developing organic electronic materials have to balance requirements that
often conflict: material with good electrical properties, and material
that is readily processable.
Researchers from DuPont Central Research and Development and Columbia
University have devised a way to make a random, self-assembled network
of carbon nanotubes embedded in polymer that preserves the nanotubes'
electrical conductivity and is suitable for thermal printing processes.
Carbon nanotubes are rolled-up sheets of carbon atoms that can
be narrower than one nanometer in diameter.
The nanotube networks could eventually be used to make large,
inexpensive electrical signs and displays, according to the researchers.
The researchers' composite material consists of nanotubes, a conductive
polymer that connects the nanotubes to form a highly-conductive network,
and a non-conductive, or insulating polymer that forms a film, or matrix,
surrounding the interconnected nanotubes. The matrix has no impact on
the electrical properties of the nanotube network, according to the researchers.
The material incorporate bundles of nanotubes and could be used
to make thin-film transistors for displays. The method could also be used
with single nanotubes to yield materials suitable for nanoelectronics
applications like nanowires and biosensors, according to the researchers.
Organic electronic applications could be practical in 2 to 5 years,
according to the researchers. The work appeared in the August 2, 2004
issue of Applied Physics Letters.
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