Scientists develop nylon to build transparent electronic devices

Scientists develop nylon to build transparent electronic devices

Nylons are nowadays among the most widely used synthetic fibers in textiles.

Scientists have produced a very thin nylon film that can be used in building transparent electronic devices.

As the microelectronic industry is now shifting toward wearable electronic gadgets and electronic textiles, the comprising electronic materials such as ferroelectrics should be integrated with clothes.

Scientists at MPI-P in collaboration with researchers from the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz and Lodz University of Technology have now solved this forty-year-old problem and developed a method to fabricate ferroelectric nylon thin-film capacitors by dissolving nylon in a mixture of trifluoroacetic acid and acetone and solidifying it again in a vacuum.

They were able to realise thin nylon films that are typically only a few 100 nanometers thick, several 100 times thinner than a human hair.

Nylons, a family of synthetic polymers, were first introduced in the 1920s for women's stockings and are nowadays among the most widely used synthetic fibers in textiles.

They consist of a long chain of repeated molecular units, i.e., polymers, where each repeat unit contains a specific arrangement of hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen with carbon atoms.

Besides the use in textiles, it was discovered that some nylons also exhibit so-called "ferroelectric properties." Describing that the positive and negative electric charges can be separated and this state can be maintained.

The ferroelectric materials are used in sensors, actuators, memories, and energy harvesting devices.

The advantage in using polymers is that they can be liquified by using adequate solvents and therefore processed from solution at low cost to form flexible thin-films, which are suitable for electronic devices such as capacitors, transistors, and diodes.

"Using this method, we have produced extremely smooth thin-films. This is very important because it prevents an electrical break down of for example capacitors and destroying the electronic circuits. At the same time, the smoothness allows for having transparent thin-films and eventually transparent electronic devices," said Dr Kamal Asadi, group leader at MPI-P.

By using their newly developed method, the group around Kamal Asadi was able to produce high-performance nylon capacitors. The scientists subjected the prototypes of the capacitors to extended stress cycles and demonstrated the robustness of ferroelectric nylons under millions of operation cycles.

The thin nylon films could become an important component for use in flexible electronics in the future and find applications in bendable electronic devices or for electronics in clothing.

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