Monday, April 11, 2005

"CHIPS: Self-assembling organic semiconductors reported"

Israeli researchers have taken a page from nature's book to create self-assembling organic semiconductors. Unlike inorganic silicon semiconductors, organic materials are naturally self-assembling: All the complex development and growth experienced by living things evolved from the self-assembly of atomically precise organic materials. The researchers hope that within two years their semiconducting proteins, called "electronic peptides," could enable lighter, cheaper, lower-power, flexible electronics. "Our aim is 100 percent control of electronic peptides," said professor Nir Tessler of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology (Haifa, Israel). "We want to prepare electronic peptides in the same precise way that electrical engineers at Intel or IBM prepare a silicon circuit." By linking electronic peptides in protein chains, like conventional polymers, Tessler's group plans to produce various organic semiconductors that can both emit and detect light. Emitting electronic peptides are predicted to enable foldable, color organic-LED displays with a higher resolution than possible with inorganic methods. Likewise, the self-assembling methods for detectors could enable large-scale, flexible solar cells. Both displays and solar cells made from electronic peptides could be rolled up like a blanket. The researchers also predict that electronic peptides could enable new sensor devices that detect trace amounts of environmental toxins or, in the body, diseased cells before they can multiply. "Eventually, we will run into engineering problems we will have to surmount, but so far our technique is working like magic," said Tessler.