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A Soft Future?. Dr. Paul Meredith Soft Condensed Matter Physics Group & Centre for Biophotonics & Laser Science University of Queensland School of Physical Sciences www.softsolids.physics.uq.edu.au. Theme. Soft Electronics – Reality or Pipe-Dream?. Plastic Logic ©. Outline.

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A soft future l.jpg

A Soft Future?

Dr. Paul Meredith

Soft Condensed Matter Physics Group

& Centre for Biophotonics & Laser Science

University of Queensland School of Physical Sciences


Theme l.jpg

Soft Electronics –

Reality or Pipe-Dream?

Plastic Logic©

Outline l.jpg

  • What are “soft-solids” and what is “soft-electronics”?

  • “The Silicon Age”

  • “The Soft Age” – a revolution in functional materials and high technology

  • Nanotechnology – “scale without size”

  • The best of both worlds – nano-engineering of functional soft solids (nano-bio link)

  • SCM Physics @ UQ

    • electrically conducting biomaterials

    • new synthetic conducting plastics

    • plastic solar cells

    • nano-engineering of support structures

  • Summary – what can we really expect from the functional soft-solids revolution?

Why soft solids l.jpg
Why “Soft Solids”?

  • Soft-solids (polymers especially) are cheap to manufacture, relatively easy to process, can have better environmental profiles than “hard solids”, are mechanically flexible and robust .... but (until recently) have lacked “functionality”


The silicon age 1947 onwards l.jpg
The Silicon Age (1947 onwards)

IBM Archive©

1947 – the 1st transistor

(Ge point contact)

1948 – the 1st junction

transistor (Ge)

John Bardeen

Walter Brattain

William Shockley

(BELL Labs)

Inorganic semiconductors l.jpg
Inorganic Semiconductors

  • The basic ingredient for all high technology devices and products

  • The advantages

    • fast

    • relatively dependable

    • versatile

    • technology is in place – they work!

  • The disadvantages

    • costly

    • very difficult to process (UHV equipment and photolithography)

    • some compound SCs have horrible environmental profile (e.g. GaAs)

    • limited stock of some

    • delicate & no mechanical flexibility

The soft age 1977 to l.jpg
The “Soft Age” (1977 to ......?)

A revolution in functional materials for high technology?

  • The 2000 Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded for the discovery of metal-like electrical conductivity in iodine-doped polyacetylene

  • Prior to this discovery (Shirakawa, Heeger, MacDairmid), it was thought that organic polymers could not conduct electricity in the solid state

  • The “Soft Age” was born

Sov and Alan MacDairmid

The soft age 1977 to9 l.jpg
The “Soft Age” (1977 to ......?)

  • Explosion in “functional” soft-solids research (small molecule and large molecule organic electronics)

  • Wild predictions of high tech and low tech applications – soft-solid related material benefits plus electrical (semiconducting) functionality

  • IBM, Lucent, Philips, Seiko Epson, HP all have major organic electronics programs

plastic memory

smart textiles


electronic ink

organic solar cells

1,888 Transistors!

A thin film conducting

polymer transistor and

“soft-circuitry” – arrays

of these transistors on

a flexible polymer sheet

Light emitting polymer

displays – thin, flexible

screens with 180˚ view

Plastic Logic©

The soft age 1977 to10 l.jpg
The “Soft Age” (1977 to ......?)

  • Ever increasing numbers of organic electronic (soft-electronic) materials (small and large molecules)

Plus “organic molecular crystals” like the oligo-acenes

Nanotechnology scale without size l.jpg
Nanotechnology “scale without size”

© www.wag.caltech.edu

© http://www.unibas.ch/phys-meso

Nano engineering of functional soft solids l.jpg
Nano-engineering of Functional Soft Solids

  • Many “new” nanotechnologies will contain soft materials

  • Nano-biotechnology attempts to nano-engineer biomaterials (DNA electronics etc.)

  • The first realistic nano-engineered soft solids will probably be micro or nano patterned conducting polymers

© http://www.rhk-tech.com/hall

Scm physics @ uq what are we doing to help in a small way fuel this revolution l.jpg
SCM Physics @ UQ – What are we doing to help (in a small way) fuel this revolution?

  • Several programs concerned with understanding and utilising functional soft solids

  • Heavy focus on biomaterials as well as synthetic polymers

    • electrically conducting biomaterials

    • new synthetic conducting plastics

    • plastic solar cells

    • nano-engineering of support structures

1 a biomaterial sensor l.jpg
1. A Biomaterial Sensor way) fuel this revolution?

A melanin sensor

2 novel routes to synthetic conducting polymers ion implantation l.jpg

EDX Scan Line way) fuel this revolution?


2. Novel Routes to Synthetic Conducting Polymers (Ion Implantation)



  • Patterning Strategies:

  • conventional and unconventional nano-lith

  • inkjet nano-printing of the metal + implantation with a broad beam

  • focused ion-beam writing

3 plastic solar cells l.jpg
3. Plastic Solar Cells way) fuel this revolution?

Current WORLD RECORD ~5% (PCE)

(c.f. Commercial Silicon cells ~ 15%)

nano-crystals in a

conducting polymer


This cell produces a WHOPPING 20mA

4 nano engineering of support structures scale without size l.jpg
4. Nano-engineering of Support Structures – scale without size!

  • Create support structures and electrodes which have a very large internal surface area (nano-engineering) – provide a large surface for attachment of functional organic molecules and enhance properties such as charge transport and photon capture

R. Vogel

R6G/titania nano-

composite formed

into a micro-donut


K. Teo, U. Camb

A carbon nanotube field –

potential solar cell material

A nanostructured titania support/electrode

Summary what can we really expect from the soft electronics revolution l.jpg
Summary – what can we really expect from the “soft-electronics” revolution?

We at UQ Physics are trying to do our bit:

- functional biomaterials

- plastic solar cells

- new (cheap), patternable synthetic conducting polymers

Acknowledgements l.jpg
Acknowledgements “soft-electronics” revolution?

  • E. Moore (UQ Postdoc)

  • D. Blake (UQ / CSIRO PhD)

  • M. Harvey (UQ PhD)*

  • J. Riesz (UQ Hons)

  • S. Subianto (QUT PhD)****

  • E. Tavenner (UQ PhD)

  • L. Tran (UQ Postdoc)**

  • R. Vogel (UQ PhD Chem / Postdoc)*

  • A. Watt (UQ PhD)*

  • H. Rubinsztein-Dunlop (CBLS)*

  • P. Bernhardt (UQ Chem)

  • P. Evans (ANSTO, Lucas Heights)

  • A. Hamilton (UNSW)

  • M. Lu (UQ Chem Eng)***

  • A. Micolich (UNSW)

  • R. McKenzie (UQ)**

  • B. Powell (UQ)***

  • B. Reguse (CSIRO, TIP)

  • T. Sarna (Jagiellonian University, Poland)

  • K. Teo (Cambridge University, UK)

  • G. Wills (QUT)****


ARC Discovery (DP0210458, DP0345309)

ARC Linkage (LE0239044)


ANSTO (2002 & 2003)

Procter & Gamble

Centre for Biophotonics &

Laser Science

The end l.jpg
The End “soft-electronics” revolution?

“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations,

for Nature cannot be fooled”

Dick Feynman