University of Michigan research has produced a plastic that conducts electricity while remaining transparent, great for solar cells, displays and smart windows
Plastic is usually an insulating material and is used to shield electrical cables or protect printed circuit boards. Scientists have long tried to make plastic electrically conductive, especially after the arrival of foldable smartphones and devices on the market. A new research, led by the University of Michigan, proposes a new material that promises to solve the problem. The research was published in the journal Nature Communication.
The material developed is composed of several thin layers of alternating conductors and insulators. The core is formed by a layer of silver doped with copper, only 6.5 nanometers thick, between two plastic films. This conductive layer is coated with two additional layers of insulating material, one consisting of aluminium oxide and one of zinc oxide. The resulting film is conductive and completely transparent to light. The key to success is in the alternative use of the metal components, usually deposited as a surface layer and causing the loss of light transmission.
“We developed a way to make coatings with high transparency and conductivity, low haze, excellent flexibility, easy fabrication and great compatibility with different surfaces” says Prof. Jay Guo, research leader. The material can be used immediately as protection on silicon solar cells or new transparent photovoltaic modules. The film can also be tested on foldable touchscreen electronic devices or, in addition, on machine glass to melt the jacket.