QUT researchers turning pigments into stretchable electronics

Photo: Queensland University of Technology

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researchers have detailed how carbon-based organic materials used for their colour as dyes can be used to produce stretchable and biodegradable electronic devices.

“With the fast growth of high-mobility materials, they are increasingly considered for use in stretchable electronic devices that can provide unique mechanical properties including being able to be bent, twisted, stretched, and wrapped over irregular or moving objects,” QUT Associate Professor Prashant Sonar said.

“All these properties are attractive for biomedical instruments, wearable electronics, bioinspired devices, and artificial skin for robotics and prosthetics.

“With these types of devices, we’re not looking at the scale of 20 years or 30 years, we are looking at the scale of three, four or five years and for all these applications, low-cost printable organic semiconductors is the bottleneck.”

Sonar leads the team of researchers who are working on the using the organic pigments called diketopyrrolopyrrole (DPP). These pigments have charge transporting and optoelectronic properties, which enables light to be converted into electrical signals and electrical energy into light.

One of the advantages of the using pigments with electronics is that they can be printed on a range of materials. This means flexible materials can become solar cells, transistors and sensors and used in many ways ranging from medical devices designed to be inserted into the body to technology products designed to break down rather than end up as more e-waste.

Sonar’s research group recently developed semiconductor materials using a class of an orange dye called anthanthrone (ANT) which could be used in the future for ‘perovskite’ flexible solar cells built into curtains, sail shades or even clothing.

Along with flexibility, an advantage DPP pigments have in use in organic electronic devices is that they are lower cost, lighter weight and are produced without the need to mine valuable resources.

Sonar is a Chief Investigator with the QUT Centre for Materials Science, which has the mission to design, discover, and develop advanced functional materials to solve key technological challenges across four research themes – soft matter; hard matter; computation, prediction and modelling; and analytical methods.

He has published more than 60 papers on DPP pigments and their uses and has licenced two patents for DPP substances to a US-based conglomerate.