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Highly stretchable polymer semiconductor films through the nanoconfinement effect

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Science  06 Jan 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6320, pp. 59-64
DOI: 10.1126/science.aah4496

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Trapping polymers to improve flexibility

Polymer molecules at a free surface or trapped in thin layers or tubes will show different properties from those of the bulk. Confinement can prevent crystallization and oddly can sometimes give the chains more scope for motion. Xu et al. found that a conducting polymer confined inside an elastomer—a highly stretchable, rubber-like polymer—retained its conductive properties even when subjected to large deformations (see the Perspective by Napolitano).

Science, this issue p. 59; see also p. 24

Abstract

Soft and conformable wearable electronics require stretchable semiconductors, but existing ones typically sacrifice charge transport mobility to achieve stretchability. We explore a concept based on the nanoconfinement of polymers to substantially improve the stretchability of polymer semiconductors, without affecting charge transport mobility. The increased polymer chain dynamics under nanoconfinement significantly reduces the modulus of the conjugated polymer and largely delays the onset of crack formation under strain. As a result, our fabricated semiconducting film can be stretched up to 100% strain without affecting mobility, retaining values comparable to that of amorphous silicon. The fully stretchable transistors exhibit high biaxial stretchability with minimal change in on current even when poked with a sharp object. We demonstrate a skinlike finger-wearable driver for a light-emitting diode.

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