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Explaining Conductivity in Some Polymers


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A general rule of thumb is that metals conduct electricity and polymers do not, but like all rules, there are exceptions. Conjugated polymers are an example of this, as these plastics are electrically conductive, and for a long time it has been hard to explain why. Now researchers at MIT have found an answer that can lead to even better conductive polymers.

One of the main reasons conjugated polymers have been difficult to understand is that they exist in a middle-ground between crystalline and amorphous. There are well-ordered domains and chaotic regions throughout the material. According to the researchers, it is how the electrical current jumps across boundaries, from one domain to another that determines the conductivity. In bulk materials, the charge carriers can go in any direction, but in conjugated polymers they are limited to just the crystalline domains. The fewer options actually make the conduction more efficient, which is why thinner samples of the polymers work better.

So far the work has just been done with the conjugated polymer PEDOT, but it should be applicable to other conjugated polymers. As these materials, including PEDOT, can be conductive, transparent, flexible, and cheap to make many are looking at them for replacing materials like ITO, which is quite rigged and expensive but necessary for many applications.

Source: MIT

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