Scientists eyeing “electrically jumpy” molecules for electronics promise

July 5, 2006 – Researchers at the U. of Pennsylvania and St. Josephs U. are pursuing work on “chromophores,” which linked together enable transfer of electrical charges that exceed mobility in today’s best organic semiconductors by a factor of three.

Chemically speaking, a chromophore is a molecule or part of a molecule that is responsible for its color — i.e., light hitting the chromophore excites an electron, which then emits light of a particular color. The researchers determined that introducing a charge to a chain array of chromophores enables electrons to “quickly hop from one chromophore to the next,” according to Michael Therien, a professor in Penn’s Department of Chemistry and lead researcher on the project. Key to getting the electrons to zip around freely is making sure the chromophore structures are long with short links in between. “This arrangement of linked chromophores leads to small structural changes when holes and electrons are introduced into these structures, and these physical changes help propagate the charge,” stated study co-author Paul Angiolillo of St. Josephs U.

The scientists say they’ve built chromophore circuits that could, for example, serve as functional elements in plastic electronics, RFID tags, drivers in active-matrix LCDs, and organic LEDs, as well as for lightweight solar cells. Results suggest that molecular conductive elements can be produced on a 10nm length scale, “providing an important functional element for nanoscale circuitry,” Therien said.

Findings of the research, which is supported by the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation, are presented in the current issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.


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