Controlling ion transport in organic devices
Abstract: Organic electronics and printed electronics have been attracting more and more research interest in the past decades. Polymers constitute an important class of materials within the field organic electronics due to their unique physical and chemical properties. One great benefit of the polymers is their solution processability, which provides us the possibility to utilize conventional printing techniques to fabricate devices on flexible substrates.This thesis focuses on utilizing and controlling the ion transport in polyelectrolytes in electronic devices for different applications. A polyelectrolyte is a polymer in which the polymeric backbone includes ionic sites compensated by counter ions.Firstly, we have used a specific property of the polyelectrolyte: its electric polarization is strongly dependent on the humidity level. The ions are screened by water molecules; this improves the mobility and dissociation of ions. A polyelectrolyte-based capacitor is thus ideal to sense humidity. Such a capacitor is integrated into an LC resonant circuit possessing a specific resonant frequency. The wirelessly detected resonant frequencies of the sensing circuit indicate the corresponding humidity levels. With the appropriate choice of materials, the complete sensing circuit (resistor, capacitor, capacitor-like sensor head) can be screen-printed on an antenna manufactured using a roll-to-roll dry phase patterning technique.Secondly, we have modified the polarization characteristics of ions in a polyelectrolyte layer by trapping the ions in molecular macrocycles dispersed in a polymer overlayer. The resulting remanent polarization is read out as a hysteresis loop in the capacitance-voltage characteristic of a capacitor. The strategy is further implemented in an electrolyte-gated organic transistor to control its threshold voltage by applying defined programming voltages. Although the lifetime of the “remanent” polarization is rather short, the concept might be further improved to fit those of memory applications.Finally, we take use of the ionic selectivity of a polyelectrolyte to stabilize the operation of a water-gated organic field-effect transistor. The polyanionic membrane is added onto the semiconductor channel to prevent small anions of the aqueous electrolyte to penetrate into the p-channel semiconductor. Moreover, the polyelectrolyte layer protects the semiconductor and thus strongly stabilizes the shelf lifetime of those transistors. This improved version of the water-gated organic transistor is a candidate for developing transistor-based sensors working in, for instance, biological media.
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