Berkeley Lab

Designing polymers for the future of electronics

By Brooke Kuei

Although modern technology such as smart watches have already enabled us to stay constantly connected, the future of electronics may include devices that can integrate directly with skin or internal organs. Conjugated polymers are promising for these devices because they are electronic materials that are flexible and stretchable. In one of this morning’s User Highlights, Xiaodan Gu, assistant professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, gave a talk entitled “Rational design of conjugated polymers for deformable electronics through thin-film mechanics.” Xiaodan discussed his group’s progress on developing a tensile testing system for free standing polymer thin-films. Using this set up, they were able to test the mechanical properties of various polymers as a function of changes in backbone and side chain engineering. It was found that more thiophene units in the backbone will decrease rigidity but increase elastic modulus, and that longer side chains result in lower glass transition temperatures and lower modulus. Xiaodan also showed how neutron scattering can be used to study chain rigidity. Altogether, this work helps polymer scientists better understand how to design conjugated polymers for flexible electronics.