A new generation of organic semiconductors for smartphones and solar cells is emerging, more efficient because they are able to cooperate with each other, imitating what happens in viruses and bacteria to create organic semiconductors. This is the challenge being tackled by the research group of the American Beckman Institute coordinated by Daniel Davies. The goal is to create new technologies to profoundly innovate the electronics of the future. The first steps, described in the journal Nature Communications, are flexible crystals made of hydrogen and carbon.
Although very simple, viruses are incredibly dynamic molecular machines, capable, for example, of moving some complex components in an organic way: an example is the contractions of the so-called tubular tail used by viruses or bacteria to attack or penetrate cells. These movements are practically impossible to perform for the materials produced in the laboratory by man, which are instead very rigid. The secret of this dynamism, according to the researchers, lies in the so-called molecular cooperativity, i.e. the ability to modify a structure in a synchronized, rapid way and with little waste of energy. “Molecular cooperativity helps living systems function quickly and efficiently,” Davies said.
‘We asked ourselves, could they show the same benefits if the molecules in electronic devices worked together?’ said the researcher. This question was the starting point for seeking innovative solutions for new electronic materials: the first goal is crystalline structures made of hydrogen and carbon, whose structure is flexible and changes when it receives heat from the outside. This is only a first step but which, according to the authors of the research, could lead to semiconductor materials very similar to those already existing in nature and therefore much easier to integrate, for example in biological sensors, smartwatches or solar cells.
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