Organic Electronic Materials: A licence to print money

J E Cummins OBE Oration given by Prof Andrew Holmes, Bio 21

Most of us associate polymers (or plastics) with a structural function such as a replacement  material for wood or metals. Plastic is also used as an insulating material to avoid electric shock.  However, in the late 1970s it was discovered that certain kinds of polymers can be “doped” with iodine and these were found to behave as conducting materials, almost as efficient as metallic copper.  The discoverers were awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2000.

The emergence of conducting polymers led to a growing fascination in these materials and to the closely related semiconducting polymers that mimic the behaviour of crystalline silicon.  In this lecture the concept of using semiconducting fluorescent polymers as a source of light will be introduced.   Light emitting devices offer a real opportunity for use in flat panel displays and televisions.

The second part of the lecture will summarise the use of organic semiconducting materials in the reverse mode, namely, to harvest energy from the sun’s rays and convert it into electricity.  The talk will describe the efforts of the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium to print low cost lightweight flexible solar cells by a process not dissimilar from that used to produce the Australian polymer banknote.