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Electrically Conductive Plastic Polymer

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the shock-resistance dept.

Hardware 118

AustinSlacker writes to mention Fox news is reporting that a Dutch researcher is announcing a breakthrough in plastics. A new way of rebuilding plastics could allow them to conduct electricity just as well as the silicon wafers currently used in electronic gadgets. "Prins discovered that in plastics, the movement of electric charges was mainly hindered by the shape of the polymer, the chain-like molecular structure [that is] the basis of each kind of plastic. Prins extended the work of a German group that had reshaped a polymer to form a ladder-like structures. By bombarding the specially developed plastic with electrons from a particle accelerator, she was able to study rapid electrical reactions and demonstrate the new plastic's ability to conduct electricity much better than regular plastic and as well as silicon chips."

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Bad news, good news (0)

the darn (624240) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518203)

The bad news is that future electronics will be even flimiser than they currently are...the good news is that they'll be more easily recycled...

Re:Bad news, good news (4, Informative)

apocalysque (538221) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518457)

actually, polymers are inherently more flexible than other plastics. this may actually make some products more durable. think of it this way: glass = silicon, rubber = polymer. which one breaks easier?

this misses the point entirely though, the main advantage is that the manufacturing process would be theoretically less expensive. much of the cost and difficulty with silicon chips today is involved with the manufacture/conditioning of the silicon wafers. plastics are very cheap these days.

Re:Bad news, good news (2, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519199)

Aren't plastics a subset of polymers?

Re:Bad news, good news (1)

apocalysque (538221) | more than 7 years ago | (#18520283)

i was under the impression that not all plastics qualify as polymers, as not all polymers are plastics. off to wikipedia i go!

Re:Bad news, good news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18522947)

Plastic is a very general term that refers to any material that is malleable. In this sense metals can be considered plastics because of their high malleability. This term was expanded to include things like polymerized materials -- plastics -- that are similarly malleable.

Re:Bad news, good news (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519191)

The bad news is that future electronics will be even flimsier than they currently are

actually, this would make them more durable. if I'm reading this correctly, you could practically bend a motherboard in half and it would still work fine.

though i tend to see the components on a board break (or break off) more often than the board itself, so it may be a moot point.

Re:Bad news, good news (1)

Tdawgless (1000974) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519559)

Motherboards are not made of polymers or silicon. They're made of PCB which is made from substrate.

Re:Bad news, good news (1)

noahisaac (956470) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519621)

Motherboards are not made of polymers or silicon. They're made of PCB which is made from substrate.
Which is typically (but not always) made of silicon.

Re:Bad news, good news (1)

Cunk (643486) | more than 7 years ago | (#18521361)

Which is typically (but not always) made of silicon.

Ah, no. More like fiberglass. I've never heard of a silicon-based PCB material.

Re:Bad news, good news (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519719)

Motherboards are not made of polymers or silicon. They're made of PCB which is made from substrate

make the PCB out of a flexible substrate and electrically conductive polymer, rather than a rigid substrate and copper (or whatever metal(s) they're using).

Re:Bad news, good news (1)

Egatlov (946979) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519983)

PCB stands for Printed Circuit Board. I don't even know what you're referring to as far as substrate.
In reality PCB's are made of many different materials. One very common one being FR4.

Re:Bad news, good news (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 7 years ago | (#18523011)

FR-4 is a glass/epoxy composite. Other PCB substrates include paper/epoxy, paper/polyester (cheap), aramid/epoxy, glass/polyimide, glass/PTFE and other combinations of woven or non-woven fibers and polymeric materials. It is intentionally a good insulator on which copper traces do their conducting, and hopefully not cross-talking (except on RF boards). I've seen some guy's sig here on /. that says "FR-4 is the root of all evil." I guess that's some kind of metaphor.

Re:Bad news, good news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18519309)

The bad news is that future electronics will be even flimiser than they currently are.

No, the bad news is that this is being reported on Faux News [foxnews.com] , which all independent-minded correct-thinking people are supposed to hate for at least two minutes per day.

let me know when copper is an insulator. (4, Interesting)

swschrad (312009) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518225)

conductive plastic actually has some uses, but being a larger molecule than molecular silicon or germanium, doesn't make it look like the next New Chip Substrate.

Re:let me know when copper is an insulator. (3, Informative)

friedman101 (618627) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518445)

A bigger barrier to entry might be that this conducting plastic cannot function as a semiconductor. Lots of materials conduct electricity, lots insulate, few can do both.

Re:let me know when copper is an insulator. (2, Informative)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519815)

While it's used to make semi-conductors, silicon on its own can't conduct at normal (human) working temperatures. Due to its negative temperature coefficient of resistance it will be able to effectively conduct at temperatures over roughly 1200C, but not at room temperature. You need to highly purify and dope the silicon in order to get it to produce semi-conductors that function at 'normal' working temperatures (which I don't think include 4 digit temperatures ;-) ). So maybe depending on what they do to the plastic, it could have the same properties as doped silicon.

yah, sure, eh.... but... (1)

swschrad (312009) | more than 7 years ago | (#18520173)

we already have tunnelling effects in present transistors in ICs, and this is being exploited. you get a long plastic molecule doped up for semiconduction, assuming the material is suitable for it, assuming the regions don't migrate under the ion bombardment, and it's bound to be leaky as a soaker hose in the garden.

not ideal for controlling electron flow.

Re:let me know when copper is an insulator. (2, Interesting)

DRAGONWEEZEL (125809) | more than 7 years ago | (#18520483)

Except that you can layer plastics easily, create meshes like cloth, and for instance your horizontil strands could be electrical while your vertical fibers could be of a non conducting polymer, like POLYESTER or something.

Re:let me know when copper is an insulator. (1)

jovetoo (629494) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518563)

This isn't intended as the New Chip Substrate... for most electronics the integration scale doesn't matter.
However, the only way I see this becoming useful is if they get the price of the actual platic circuitry lower than the current silicon chips... and i must say:

By bombarding the specially developed plastic with electrons from a particle accelerator, she was able to study rapid electrical reactions and demonstrate the new plastic's ability to conduct electricity much better than regular plastic and as well as silicon chips.
That doesn't sound cheap. This sounds like a lot of trouble to determine the conductivity of the plastic which suggests to me that actually creating a working conductor longer than a single molecule might not be that straightforward.

Re:let me know when copper is an insulator. (1)

Mr2cents (323101) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519161)

Maybe not for next desktop CPU, but simpler circuits don't really need the smallest possible transistors. It might have other charasteristics that make it worthwhile. And don't forget plastic, wearable solar cells might become a reality with this, too.

PS: Just be careful not to get electrocuted by your t-shirt (don't worry, I don't see a market for solar-powered underwear).

Re:let me know when copper is an insulator. (2, Funny)

d0rp (888607) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519763)

PS: Just be careful not to get electrocuted by your t-shirt (don't worry, I don't see a market for solar-powered underwear).
What about solar-powered swimsuits?

Re:let me know when copper is an insulator. (2, Funny)

I Like Pudding (323363) | more than 7 years ago | (#18520479)

What about solar-powered swimsuits?


Is that your carbon offset or are you just happy to see me?

Re:let me know when copper is an insulator. (1)

Mr2cents (323101) | more than 7 years ago | (#18520541)

What about solar-powered swimsuits?
With a propellor it would be cool! But it's very dangerous if you put it on backwards, and you see a beautiful lady; you might suddenly hear a chopping sound.

Right on! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18518245)

Now all we need do is combine this plastic with disposable diapers to create the perfect training tool for geriatrics with Alzheimers!

It's About Time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18518257)

This sounds very promising! I hope they can develop cheap manufacturing processes that will lower the cost of the products.
Also, wouldn't this plastic be recyclable? Cheap, Environment Friendly and probably more durable. Sounds like a win-win-win to me.

Plastic electronics don't have 2 be supercomputers (4, Interesting)

DRAGONWEEZEL (125809) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518345)

The real benefit is things renewed potential for things like sensors, and smart clothing.

Maybe it will make short but wide networks possible, who knows.

I think mostly though, that it could be used to replace the small electronic devices that get used everyday that you don't think of from a techies perspective. Automotive pieces certain types of switches, small controllers, toys, medical devices, spoilage detectors for food/ food processing etc. These would be the key industries I can think of off the bat

Re:Plastic electronics don't have 2 be supercomput (1)

SuseLover (996311) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519145)

This could be a big boon to battery technology. Plastic is way lighter than lead, cheaper and less toxic than Lithium or Ni-Cad. and maybe more corrosion resistant.

Re:Plastic electronics don't have 2 be supercomput (1)

Zantetsuken (935350) | more than 7 years ago | (#18521989)

I also can see this technology being used in chipset/semiconductors - not on the ground, but for things like the space shuttle, ISS, etc. Reason being is that if unlike current semiconductors which would fairly easilly get fried by radiation, etc, this could help replace the old chipsets on the shuttle with newer, more efficient stuff...

As conductive as silicon? (3, Insightful)

kmac06 (608921) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518347)

Silicon is not a good conductor. The advantage it can be doped to make it as good of a conductor as necessary (which also allows you to make transistors out of it). I doubt this plastic can be doped...

Also, why not run a test current through it to measure the conductivity instead of using an accelerator?

Re:As conductive as silicon? (1)

whathappenedtomonday (581634) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518599)

Also, why not run a test current through it to measure the conductivity instead of using an accelerator?

Because it's less fun?

duh (4, Funny)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518637)

If you had a choice between using a particle accelerator or a power supply, which would you use?

I hope to convince my office to move to the grounds of fermi lab, so I can have the choice as well.

Just have to remember to switch to conventional power supply before they start the experiments with anti matter.

Re:duh (1)

amchugh (116330) | more than 7 years ago | (#18521829)

Was that an "out of this world" reference?

Re:As conductive as silicon? (1)

odbasta (993741) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518681)

Seriously, though...if I need a particle accelerator to push a current through plastic, is it really practical? Make it work on an AA and we'll start talking quantity.

Re:As conductive as silicon? (1)

gregmark (750089) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519011)

Seriously, though...if I need a particle accelerator to push a current through plastic, is it really practical? Make it work on an AA and we'll start talking quantity.

No where in TRA does it say that you need a particle accelerator. This is a technology in its infancy -- the inventor even says that it will be several years it's mature enough to be marketable; ie, more experimentation will be required before Best Buy starts palcing orders. Obviously this won't go anywhere if it's cost-prohibitive or otherwise impractical. Assuming that this lady's results are genuine, what we have here is a new branch in plastics and , um... conducto-dynamics... or however you categorize it. IANAPhysicist. Good news in any case.

Little bitty test prods ... (2, Interesting)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519851)

... why not run a test current through it to measure the conductivity instead of using an accelerator?

She did.

But hooking up molecule-sized test prods to an ohmmeter was a pain.

So she used a particle accelerator to inject the electrons. (TFA doesn't say what else she used to measure the current.)

I've contemplated using scanning electron beams for electrical measurements. Say: a low-energy electron beam for the negative supply, a high-energy one (creating more secondary electrons than injected electrons) for the positive, and a third one at an energy that turns it back around near the surface (or gets sucked in, depending on voltage) for a voltage probe.

But that's both too large and too energetic for testing single molecules of plastic.

Going the other way and using a particle accelerator to excite some observable side-effect of conduction is quite the hack. (I'd propose giving her an award but her university already did. Waytago!)

as well as silicon? (0)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518377)

I thought silicon was a half-assed conductor of electricity: hence, semi-conductor. Sometimes it do, sometimes it dont.

Can you dope this plastic and make, say, a plain ole NPN transistor we could use today? I know silicon is environmentally uncool.

Does it react to light the same way? Is this the breakthrough in solar panels we've been waiting for?

I want to know and I want to know now.

Re:as well as silicon? (-1)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518583)

Crap. Silicon is environmentally uncool? Somebody better start getting rid of all those rocks that we've got lying around, then. Clean the sand off of the beaches, too. Move it, people, move it! We've got 25% of the Earth's mass to get rid of here!

Re:as well as silicon? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18518693)

Why dont you take a look at how silicon wafers for microchip production, and how solar panels are produced, and just how environmentally hostile it is.

Or just bloviate with your 8th grade knowledge of science.

Carbon and Oxygen are everywhere too! Why all the crying about CO2 in the atmostphere?

Re:as well as silicon? (1)

timster (32400) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518999)

But your point is that it's not the silicon itself that's unfriendly, it's the manufacturing process. It's one thing to change the transistor material, and quite another to eliminate the need for photolithography.

I don't know if that's quite the point the GP was making, but it's certainly a sensible one.

Re:as well as silicon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18520447)

Another idea, let's start working on getting rid of that excess karma lying around too.

Oops, looks like you already did.

Thinking, it's fundamental.

OOOOOLD news (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518379)

Everyone knows that plastic is one of the best conductors and has been for years and years and years. You just have to cool it down to like -400F. But hey, dip it in liquid helium and you've got one of the best superconductors in the world. No modifications required. It would be nice to do it at room temperature with their method but plastic is made from oil and metal isn't so this is going to go nowhere fast. Unless it has crazy low resistance at room temperature, it's no competition to any metal wire.

Computer of the future is near (4, Funny)

Jtheletter (686279) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518389)

Ok, so in the last couple years or so we've seen the devlopment of: 1) electrically conductive plastics 2) transparent (when off) OLED-based displays, 3) transparent plastic-based circuits, 4) clear plastic-based batteries, 5) multitouch input capability, and 6) light-based data transfer methods and holographic data storage.

Within 10 years I hope to see all of these technologies combined into a geek fantasy device: a clear plastic tablet computer about the size of a pad of paper. Not to mention the hojillion other applications that suddenly become possible when you can embed a complete computer with I/O in a transparent medium: HUDs for glasses, store windows that are also dynamic advertising surfaces, image processing and data overlay on windshields (e.g. thermal or IR image data to augment the scene in poor visibility), etc.
I especially like the plastic battery concept since in theory you could make certain structural elements also function as you battery so there is no need for a bulky power source attached to the device, this would work well for the glasses display - the frames themselves could be the battery and/or processor. Although we'd definitely want to make sure there aren't any exploding battery incidents like with recent laptops.

Re:Computer of the future is near (5, Funny)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518475)

Within 10 years I hope to see all of these technologies combined into a geek fantasy device: a clear plastic tablet computer about the size of a pad of paper.

Speak for yourself.

My fantasy device allows me to seduce any supermodel of my choosing, has rocket engines so it can fly, and 20 dollar bills come out the exhaust. It is also made of solid space gold (its not heavy) and the horn plays dixie and it sounds AWESOME!

That or an iPod.

Re:Computer of the future is near (1)

owlstead (636356) | more than 7 years ago | (#18522095)

Sounds like Homers car to me...

ATTN: Windows/Linux Refugees! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18518561)

Still looking for the "maximize" button when your Mac has "zoom" instead? Take the hint, switcheurs: If you can't deal with multiple windows at once, GTFO of our platform. The Mac wasn't designed for one-track minds.

Re:ATTN: Windows/Linux Refugees! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18519545)

STFU. I'm SOOOO sick of hearing this!

Re:Computer of the future is near (1)

chelecossais (724880) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518593)

"...store windows that are also dynamic advertising surfaces"

  Sounds wonderful *koff*koff*

Re:Computer of the future is near (1)

Jtheletter (686279) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518727)

"...store windows that are also dynamic advertising surfaces"
Sounds wonderful *koff*koff*


I don't see why it wouldn't be. Right now store windows are *already* used for advertising, except that it involves printing new displays constantly on paper mediums and using tons of ink as well. It uses a lot of resources and generates a lot of waste that can't really be reused by the store. Sure, a video display will use energy so there's still enviromental costs involved at some level but the savings to the store in printing will pay itself back reasonably quickly. Note I didn't say "hooray the era of ubiquitous advertising is here!" I'm not interested in putting video ads everywhere like in Minority Report, although it seems an unfortunately inevitable future given how our society works. But where it is useful for store advertising applications that are already going on, why not apply the technology and get rid of wastful print advertising in store windows?

Re:Computer of the future is near (1)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518685)

Within 10 years I hope to see all of these technologies combined into a geek fantasy device

I'm personally not acknowledging any future until suicide booths and underwear commercials beamed directly in my dreams.

Re:Computer of the future is near (2, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519333)

Are the suicide booths for the folks upset after having crufty Y front adverts subliminally beamed into their head overnight?

Re:Computer of the future is near (1)

dubbreak (623656) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518915)

image processing and data overlay on windshields (e.g. thermal or IR image data to augment the scene in poor visibility)

So the future of computing will be just like The Knight 4000 from Knight Rider 2000 [wikipedia.org] ?

Let me be the first to say: Too cool.

Re:Computer of the future is near (2, Informative)

peragrin (659227) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519533)

You do realize mercedes and BMW are already testing that tech. http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/print/3043 [ieee.org]

new Mercedes have a short range radar built into the cruise control. So if you come up behind a car moving slower than yourself it taps the brakes to slow you down to the speed of a car in front of you. it's not perfect if the vechicle is moving to slow or not moving you will sill hit it, but it does work say comingup on someone doing 50 while your doing 70.

In the 1970's Mercedes where one of the first companies shipping air bags standard. now they are shipping smarter cruise controls.

Those sci-fi ideas are slowly becoming reality.

Original release (2, Insightful)

mattr (78516) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518421)

Waging the good fight against dumbed-down science and research by press release, your masked hero finds.. this.

Mobile phones can soon survive being dropped [www.nwo.nl]

Good because you cannot get a patent after publication? Or bad because.. oh phooey. This might be by the same person.

* In unrelated news is anyone going to be at ETC2007 [iastate.edu] ? Neal Stephenson talk and a new hires cave called C6 by Iowa State! Someone video the thing!

Re:Original release (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518539)

Yeah really, I was shocked at that point in the article when they suggested that the chips in an ipod are more fragile than the hard drive.

It amazes me that Apple has thus far been able to get away with advertising ipods including the hard disk models for exercise and jogging. And worse that I actually see people doing so, apparently oblivious to the problem with that. I can't say that I blame Apple for pushing for that, but it seems like consumers really ought to look into these things.

Re:Original release (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18518649)

A lot of people exercise with hard-disk iPods and don't ever have a problem. Some people do have problems, but I don't think anyone's ever done a real study on how it affects the failure rate.

One thing's for sure, it isn't a desktop model drive, and it's designed to pick up a few gees now and then.

Re:Original release (1)

mattr (78516) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518849)

My folks just got me a video ipod. I think I can feel the hard drive trying to precess when I play video while walking. It scares me. Also very dangerous, as it messes with your peripheral vision.

Re:Original release (1)

mattr (78516) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518699)

The "this" link was slartibartifast. Here [bioinfo.pl] it is. plastic wire research. Anyway I don't know why the PR has to say phones will survive being dropped.. just put rubber in them! Jeez.

Re:Original release (1)

LilGuy (150110) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519063)

Oooh sweet!! Do you have to be a student? I'm only a hop skip and jump away from isu!

Neat! (2, Interesting)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518437)

That's neat! How long until we can print circuits with something like an ink-jet?

Re:Neat! (2, Informative)

eheldreth (751767) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518971)

Xerox PARC has had that tech for years now(since like 2002 or 2003) and a company named T-Ink is working with major company's producing everything from fisher price play sets to McDonald's place mats and even inflatable radios.' Click on the partners tab: T-Ink [t-ink.com]

Re:Neat! (1)

Myrcutio (1006333) | more than 7 years ago | (#18520261)

actually that could be pretty useful, (though you might have meant laserjet, thats the one that melts bits of plastic onto the page), you could download schematics for a PCI card and print it out, cut around the edges, and pop it into your machine. See, everything you ever needed to know about building computers you learned in kindergarden.

I wonder if Lego could do something cool with this technology.

Re:Neat! (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 7 years ago | (#18523097)

not as simple as printing on your inkjet printer but printed circuits (actual circuits, not like a PCB which should really be called a "printed wiring board" since there aren't any *circuits* on it until the components are soldered on) but some people are already doing things like this: http://www.edn.com/index.asp?layout=article&articl eid=CA6365831&partner=enews&ref=nbth [edn.com]

Possibilities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18518461)

Absolutely INCREDIBLE!

Think of the possibilities man:

So, how well does this plastic conduct? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18518471)

The statement about the conducting ability of this plastic was less than exciting: "By bombarding the specially developed plastic with electrons from a particle accelerator, she was able to study rapid electrical reactions and demonstrate the new plastic's ability to conduct electricity much better than regular plastic and as well as silicon chips."

My favorite method of detecting electrical conduction is to use an ohmmeter. The researcher seems to have demonstrated the ability of this material to conduct under certain conditions. The researcher has not demonstrated the ability of the bulk material to conduct electricity. I'll believe it when I see it.

BTW, pure silicon is an insulator. Doped silicon conducts depending on how much it is doped. Comparing the conduction to the conduction of silicon chips is kind of useless. It could be anywhere between infinite and zero.

From another article (2, Funny)

phorm (591458) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519487)

by measuring the microwave absorption ... This avoided the need to use electrodes. Such electrodes often disrupt the measurement.

According to This [www.nwo.nl] article they avoided standard meters to gain better measurements.

Well sort of (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18519739)

They haven't actually produced any bulk material. Given bulk (solid) material, the standard method is to physically hook a current source to it and measure the voltage. You only worry about electrodes if you have so little material that connecting the electrodes creates a problem.

Of course with liquid materials, you do have to worry about your electrodes taking part in electrolytic reactions but we are talking about something that would have to be solid to be useful aren't we.

Possible use in solar cells? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18518473)

If this type of plastic can be a conductive substance similar to silicon and costs less to produce, then this could be a huge advantage to those advocating the use of solar power. Currently one of the largest costs in creating solar cells is the high price for silicon which is used in them. The use of a cheap plastic polymer with properties similar to silicon might make solar cells much more reasonable to purchase for a lot of people.

Re:Possible use in solar cells? (2, Informative)

DerangedAlchemist (995856) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518667)

Polymer solar cells have already been made, there are some efficiency issues but they are incredibly cheap. The problem with them is that they disintegrate very quickly. As far as I understood, this was the real problem with conducting polymers of all sorts (the thiophenes, etc.) as far as I know. Anyone know the current status of this?

Re:Possible use in solar cells? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18520059)

Anyone know the current status of this?
Yep.

Re:Possible use in solar cells? (1)

Squirmy McPhee (856939) | more than 7 years ago | (#18520513)

Polymer solar cells have already been made, there are some efficiency issues but they are incredibly cheap. The problem with them is that they disintegrate very quickly. As far as I understood, this was the real problem with conducting polymers of all sorts (the thiophenes, etc.) as far as I know. Anyone know the current status of this?

There's been a little progress -- within the last year somebody announced that he developed a polymer solar cell that might be able to last 5 years in the field. I don't recall what he did to get the additional lifetime, but most polymer cells are thought to have lifetimes no greater than a year or two (and some can't even make it that long in the laboratory, let alone baking in the sun under UV rays).

But right now, that's just one of many issues that polymer cells face. You mentioned efficiency issues, and I'm not sure that having a more conductive plastic will provide a significant boost. Polymer solar cells work by absorbing photons to create excitons, which are similar to the electron-hole pairs you see in silicon and other semiconductors. However, with an exciton the electron and the hole are tightly bound to one another and cannot move independently, so they act as a single particle. The trick is to move the exciton to a junction between two plastics of differing work function, where the electron and hole can be separated by electrostatic force and can then be used to produce an electric current. The problem is, you're lucky if you can move the exciton more than a few tens of nanometers before it relaxes. This has resulted in all sorts of weird device structures designed to minimize the distance the excitons must travel to reach the junction. Increased conductivity will not necessarily allow excitons to travel farther -- in fact, in silicon increasing conductivity often reduces the distance electrons and holes can travel -- so it won't necessarily help with this problem. It may help with other issues, though, I don't know.

Has anyone told... (1)

NotFamous (827147) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518493)

Has anyone told Packard Bell yet?

oooh (1)

Verte (1053342) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518613)

Plastic Polymer? My! What next?!?

Plastics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18518639)

I want to say one word to you. Just one word. Plastics.

Electrical Conductive Plastic Already Exists (2, Insightful)

docinthemachine (1031976) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518749)

http://www.docinthemachine.com/ [docinthemachine.com] reported in January on the development of a product called Electriplast that is a resin based electrically conductive plastic- and that is commercially available. I believe it has potential in the medical device market as well as consumer electronics. You can read more about the product at : http://docinthemachine.com/2007/01/08/electriplast / [docinthemachine.com] "Electriplast is a highly conductive recipe that can be molded into virtually any shape or dimension associated with the range of plastics, rubbers and polymers. CES chose this technology with a 2007 Innovation honoree for enabling technologies. Now it's just a matter of convincing manufacturers to look at the small medical tool market and not focus on its current #1 use- next generation cell-phone antenna."

you know, they made mixer board pots in the 70s (1)

swschrad (312009) | more than 7 years ago | (#18520239)

from conductive plastic, and NASA had it for whatever on earth for in the 60s.

merely conductive plastic is easy to do, dump a bunch of carbon into the vat. somebody probably came up with it in the lab in the 30s or 40s, took it panting to their supervisor, who promptly said, "so what the hell can I do with conductive.... plastic insulation? Perkins, you need to take Friday off."

Re:Electrical Conductive Plastic Already Exists (1)

PagosaSam (884523) | more than 7 years ago | (#18521059)

Here's another company selling this stuff, http://www.premix.fi/index.php [premix.fi]

I don't see the uniqueness of this new plastic. Besides, I thought all LCD displays used conductive plastics.

on the more practical side: ESD and RF emissions (2, Interesting)

gemtech (645045) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518813)

If it is only partially conductive, the ESD (Electro-Static Discharge) properties would get my attention (safe discharge paths for cheap). And if it could shield the circuits from emissions and susceptibility, it would be a winner in my book.

Any thoughts about heat? (0)

dharma21 (537631) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518831)

Wouldn't this alone melt the plastic if you used it for any hevay duty amperage? What is the limit for the current before it starts a total meltdown?

Re:Any thoughts about heat? (1)

AP2k (991160) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519167)

I would hope an engineer would be smart enough to use a very sturdy bus bar for things like that.

But I suppose on the bright side that it might be a good thing that it melt at a few hundred degrees instead of well over a thousand. Would make a neat fuse concept and not result in molten copper everywhere.

Oh good (2, Insightful)

ObligatoryUserName (126027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18518969)

I don't think we had enough uses for oil yet.

Re:Oh good (2, Insightful)

ductonius (705942) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519799)

Strong, flexible plastics replaced metal for many products because plastic is much cheaper to produce. I would wager that conductive plastics would actually decrease the use of oil by generally reducing the amount of resources it takes to produce an electronic product.

The amount of fuel unused in mining and refining of aluminum and copper would probably cover the increased use of natural gas by electronic manufacturers.

We may think of oil as expensive, but plastic is still cheaper than metal and has a smaller environmental impact.

Invented by a girl... (2, Informative)

Fjan11 (649654) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519031)

Insert snide male chauvinist remarks here. For extra points mention plastic and conductivity.
By the way, she's not bad looking at all, picture (and phone number!) here: http://www.tudelft.nl/live/pagina.jsp?id=40a4cfdf- 683e-4db7-9675-c5c57399329c&la [tudelft.nl]

Re:Invented by a girl... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18519365)

I'd conduct her plastic, if you know what I mean.

How many points do I get?

Re:Invented by a girl... (1)

the_wishbone (1018542) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519895)

We need a catchy phrase for the whole "Is she hot?" comments that inevitably pop up whenever any female is involved in a story...

PS... She's not bad!

Re:Invented by a girl... (1)

og_sh0x (520297) | more than 7 years ago | (#18520467)

http://www.tudelft.nl/live/pagina.jsp?id=40a4cfdf- 683e-4db7-9675-c5c57399329c&la [tudelft.nl]

      I saw that link and at first thought, "Pah-jy-nah? WTF?" Then I realized it was Spanish. "Oh, pah-hee-nah! That explains it!"

Re:Invented by a girl... (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 7 years ago | (#18521743)

At first glans I thought I saw a 'vagina' there, but I guess it's just my dirty subconscious playing with my spelling...

So, what's wrong with that? (1)

cheros (223479) | more than 7 years ago | (#18521115)

Sorry, no snide remarks here.

Why is it such a big deal that it's a girl? The only exceptional (and sorry) thing is that there aren't more of them. I've worked with mixed teams, and once you get the team past the mainly male side effects (takes a while) such teams work exceptionally well - not in the least because of the different perspectives.

Next up: cars as fast as snails! (1)

Dr. Zowie (109983) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519327)

News flash: silicon isn't a conductor -- it's a semiconductor. Conductive polymers already exist. This is comparable to announcing that the latest Camaro is faster than a Model T, or that a new digital computing device can perform a million floating-point operations per second.

Some perspective on conductive polymers (4, Informative)

gt384u (560599) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519343)

So I get the sensation that just like everywhere else on Slashdot, a lot of people are out of their depth when it comes to this topic. For some background, might I suggest reading about the work of the three men who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2000 for their work in conductive polymers [nobelprize.org] . These materials are incredible in a myriad of ways, but require a nontrivial understanding of materials to really get it.

Re:Some perspective on conductive polymers (1)

n2505d (759637) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519449)

I did extensive work on this during the late 80s and was published as an undergraduate. This is defiantly not new, nor did Prins discover this process. We were using Boron and Argon ions at that time. The end result was a radiation hardened material with a linearly conductive signature.

Re:Some perspective on conductive polymers (1)

gt384u (560599) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519611)

Heh, very cool. I worked mostly with self-assembly motifs to form block copolymers. Most of my work with conductive polymers was with polythiophenes or cyclooctatetraene-based systems. You're absolutely right about this being not new. Nobel Prizes are rarely given for recent science. I think 20-25 years after the first papers seems to be about standard these days.

Myomer? (2, Funny)

Fireye (415617) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519355)

Electrically conductive polymer leads to muscle-type plastic strads, which OBVIOUSLY in turn leads to the development of Battlemechs. So, when can I place my order for a Jenner, or maybe a nice big Battlemaster?

Re:Myomer? (1)

ductonius (705942) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519423)

Jenner? Battlemaster? Everyone knows that the Madcat sets the standard for mech-enthusiast fap material. What kind of geek are you?

All Kinds Of Possibilities (1)

wolff000 (447340) | more than 7 years ago | (#18519973)

I can see the headlines now "Conductive Plastic Accidentally Used On Electrical Tools", hilarity ensues. On another note this could a be a huge boom for lots of industries. Too bad we will probably all be dead and gone by the time it is actually useful.

Crappy Chips? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#18520087)

Does that mean chips are going to get just as shabby as everything else we've invented in glass, and turned into cheapo plastic versions?

They found the upper limit (1)

meza (414214) | more than 7 years ago | (#18520109)

"My research shows that the mobility of charges along isolated chains can be as high as the mobility of charges in conventional semiconductors," Prins told LiveScience. "When the organization of the polymer chains in electronic devices is optimized, all-plastic electronic devices can be developed that benefit from this high mobility."


This means that a bulk of this material will conduct a lot worse than silicon (propably in the order of other conducting polymers). Infact what they have meassured is the absolute maximum conductance which will only occure if you somehow get all the chains to line up in the final substrate. And well infact even then you won't get that good conductance since the polymer chains are finit in length.

I'm sure this is a very interesting material and an important scientific step in characterizing it, it's just not as big news as the headline make it.

20 year old news! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18520329)

A new Slashdot record?

lego computers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18520615)

How long until saying you are "building your own computer" actually means constructing one out of lego blocks?
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