Additives set to improve plastic electronics production

1 min read

Scientists at Imperial College have discovered that an improvement to the crystallisation process could revolutionise the way that electronic products are made.

By controlling the way that crystals are grown, say the researchers, engineers can determine the properties they want – including transparency and toughness. Crystal growth can be controlled by adding small amounts of chemical additives to plastic formulations. The team from Imperial College has shown these additives can improve how plastic electronics is made.

The team found that, when the additives were included in the formulation of plastic electronic circuitry, they could be printed more reliably and over larger areas. Dr Natalie Stingelin, from Imperial's Department of Materials and Centre of Plastic Electronics, said: "Essentially, we have demonstrated a simple way to gain control over how crystals grow in electrically conducting 'plastic' semiconductors." Dr Stingelin and research associate Dr Neil Treat looked at two additives – Irgaclear XT 386 and Millad 3988 – which are commonly used in industry. The researchers experimented by adding tiny amounts of these chemicals to the formulas of several different electrically conducting plastics and found the additives gave them precise control over where crystals would form, meaning they could also control which parts of the printed material would conduct electricity. Dr Treat says: "Our work clearly shows that these additives are really good at controlling how materials crystallise. We have shown that printed electronics can be fabricated more reliably using this strategy. But what's particularly exciting about all this is that the additives showed fantastic performance in many different types of conducting plastics. So I'm excited about the possibilities that this strategy could have in a wide range of materials." Dr Stingelin and Dr Treat will be working with the EPSRC funded Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Large Area Electronics in order to drive the industrial exploitation of their process.