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Electrically Conductive Plastic Polymer 118

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the shock-resistance dept.
AustinSlacker writes to mention Fox news is reporting that a Dutch researcher is announcing a breakthrough in plastics. A new way of rebuilding plastics could allow them to conduct electricity just as well as the silicon wafers currently used in electronic gadgets. "Prins discovered that in plastics, the movement of electric charges was mainly hindered by the shape of the polymer, the chain-like molecular structure [that is] the basis of each kind of plastic. Prins extended the work of a German group that had reshaped a polymer to form a ladder-like structures. By bombarding the specially developed plastic with electrons from a particle accelerator, she was able to study rapid electrical reactions and demonstrate the new plastic's ability to conduct electricity much better than regular plastic and as well as silicon chips."
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Electrically Conductive Plastic Polymer

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  • by swschrad (312009) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @02:13PM (#18518225) Homepage Journal
    conductive plastic actually has some uses, but being a larger molecule than molecular silicon or germanium, doesn't make it look like the next New Chip Substrate.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by friedman101 (618627)
      A bigger barrier to entry might be that this conducting plastic cannot function as a semiconductor. Lots of materials conduct electricity, lots insulate, few can do both.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        While it's used to make semi-conductors, silicon on its own can't conduct at normal (human) working temperatures. Due to its negative temperature coefficient of resistance it will be able to effectively conduct at temperatures over roughly 1200C, but not at room temperature. You need to highly purify and dope the silicon in order to get it to produce semi-conductors that function at 'normal' working temperatures (which I don't think include 4 digit temperatures ;-) ). So maybe depending on what they do t
        • we already have tunnelling effects in present transistors in ICs, and this is being exploited. you get a long plastic molecule doped up for semiconduction, assuming the material is suitable for it, assuming the regions don't migrate under the ion bombardment, and it's bound to be leaky as a soaker hose in the garden.

          not ideal for controlling electron flow.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DRAGONWEEZEL (125809)
        Except that you can layer plastics easily, create meshes like cloth, and for instance your horizontil strands could be electrical while your vertical fibers could be of a non conducting polymer, like POLYESTER or something.
    • by jovetoo (629494)
      This isn't intended as the New Chip Substrate... for most electronics the integration scale doesn't matter.
      However, the only way I see this becoming useful is if they get the price of the actual platic circuitry lower than the current silicon chips... and i must say:

      By bombarding the specially developed plastic with electrons from a particle accelerator, she was able to study rapid electrical reactions and demonstrate the new plastic's ability to conduct electricity much better than regular plastic and as well as silicon chips.

      That doesn't sound cheap. This sounds like a lot of trouble to determine the conductivity of the plastic which suggests to me that actually creating a working conductor longer than a single molecule might not be that straightforward.

      • by Shambhu (198415)
        That was their method of studying the plastic, not producing it.

        • by jovetoo (629494)
          Yes. But they would never have done that if they could just grab a few cm of the plastic and put a current on it.
    • by Mr2cents (323101)
      Maybe not for next desktop CPU, but simpler circuits don't really need the smallest possible transistors. It might have other charasteristics that make it worthwhile. And don't forget plastic, wearable solar cells might become a reality with this, too.

      PS: Just be careful not to get electrocuted by your t-shirt (don't worry, I don't see a market for solar-powered underwear).
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by d0rp (888607)

        PS: Just be careful not to get electrocuted by your t-shirt (don't worry, I don't see a market for solar-powered underwear).
        What about solar-powered swimsuits?
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          What about solar-powered swimsuits?


          Is that your carbon offset or are you just happy to see me?
        • by Mr2cents (323101)

          What about solar-powered swimsuits?
          With a propellor it would be cool! But it's very dangerous if you put it on backwards, and you see a beautiful lady; you might suddenly hear a chopping sound.

  • by DRAGONWEEZEL (125809) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @02:22PM (#18518345) Homepage
    The real benefit is things renewed potential for things like sensors, and smart clothing.

    Maybe it will make short but wide networks possible, who knows.

    I think mostly though, that it could be used to replace the small electronic devices that get used everyday that you don't think of from a techies perspective. Automotive pieces certain types of switches, small controllers, toys, medical devices, spoilage detectors for food/ food processing etc. These would be the key industries I can think of off the bat
  • by kmac06 (608921) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @02:22PM (#18518347)
    Silicon is not a good conductor. The advantage it can be doped to make it as good of a conductor as necessary (which also allows you to make transistors out of it). I doubt this plastic can be doped...

    Also, why not run a test current through it to measure the conductivity instead of using an accelerator?
    • Also, why not run a test current through it to measure the conductivity instead of using an accelerator?

      Because it's less fun?

    • duh (Score:5, Funny)

      by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @02:43PM (#18518637) Journal
      If you had a choice between using a particle accelerator or a power supply, which would you use?

      I hope to convince my office to move to the grounds of fermi lab, so I can have the choice as well.

      Just have to remember to switch to conventional power supply before they start the experiments with anti matter.
    • by odbasta (993741)
      Seriously, though...if I need a particle accelerator to push a current through plastic, is it really practical? Make it work on an AA and we'll start talking quantity.

      • by gregmark (750089)

        Seriously, though...if I need a particle accelerator to push a current through plastic, is it really practical? Make it work on an AA and we'll start talking quantity.

        No where in TRA does it say that you need a particle accelerator. This is a technology in its infancy -- the inventor even says that it will be several years it's mature enough to be marketable; ie, more experimentation will be required before Best Buy starts palcing orders. Obviously this won't go anywhere if it's cost-prohibitive or otherwise impractical. Assuming that this lady's results are genuine, what we have here is a new branch in plastics and , um... conducto-dynamics... or however you categor

    • ... why not run a test current through it to measure the conductivity instead of using an accelerator?

      She did.

      But hooking up molecule-sized test prods to an ohmmeter was a pain.

      So she used a particle accelerator to inject the electrons. (TFA doesn't say what else she used to measure the current.)

      I've contemplated using scanning electron beams for electrical measurements. Say: a low-energy electron beam for the negative supply, a high-energy one (creating more secondary electrons than injected electrons) f
      • by Goldsmith (561202)
        That's not the way things work on the molecular scale.

        It's easy to take an organic molecule with sp2 bonded carbon (say DNA) and do some spectroscopy on it, as was done here, and find out that there are electrons moving around very quickly inside the molecule. This is really not anything new. What is hard is getting those electrons to move all the way from one end of a molecule to the other and then out the other side. There IS a reason they didn't just directly measure the conductance of this stuff, and
  • by Jtheletter (686279) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @02:25PM (#18518389)
    Ok, so in the last couple years or so we've seen the devlopment of: 1) electrically conductive plastics 2) transparent (when off) OLED-based displays, 3) transparent plastic-based circuits, 4) clear plastic-based batteries, 5) multitouch input capability, and 6) light-based data transfer methods and holographic data storage.

    Within 10 years I hope to see all of these technologies combined into a geek fantasy device: a clear plastic tablet computer about the size of a pad of paper. Not to mention the hojillion other applications that suddenly become possible when you can embed a complete computer with I/O in a transparent medium: HUDs for glasses, store windows that are also dynamic advertising surfaces, image processing and data overlay on windshields (e.g. thermal or IR image data to augment the scene in poor visibility), etc.
    I especially like the plastic battery concept since in theory you could make certain structural elements also function as you battery so there is no need for a bulky power source attached to the device, this would work well for the glasses display - the frames themselves could be the battery and/or processor. Although we'd definitely want to make sure there aren't any exploding battery incidents like with recent laptops.
    • by stratjakt (596332) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @02:29PM (#18518475) Journal
      Within 10 years I hope to see all of these technologies combined into a geek fantasy device: a clear plastic tablet computer about the size of a pad of paper.

      Speak for yourself.

      My fantasy device allows me to seduce any supermodel of my choosing, has rocket engines so it can fly, and 20 dollar bills come out the exhaust. It is also made of solid space gold (its not heavy) and the horn plays dixie and it sounds AWESOME!

      That or an iPod.
    • by suv4x4 (956391)
      Within 10 years I hope to see all of these technologies combined into a geek fantasy device

      I'm personally not acknowledging any future until suicide booths and underwear commercials beamed directly in my dreams.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by LiquidCoooled (634315)
        Are the suicide booths for the folks upset after having crufty Y front adverts subliminally beamed into their head overnight?

    • by dubbreak (623656)
      image processing and data overlay on windshields (e.g. thermal or IR image data to augment the scene in poor visibility)

      So the future of computing will be just like The Knight 4000 from Knight Rider 2000 [wikipedia.org]?

      Let me be the first to say: Too cool.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by peragrin (659227)
        You do realize mercedes and BMW are already testing that tech. http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/print/3043 [ieee.org]

        new Mercedes have a short range radar built into the cruise control. So if you come up behind a car moving slower than yourself it taps the brakes to slow you down to the speed of a car in front of you. it's not perfect if the vechicle is moving to slow or not moving you will sill hit it, but it does work say comingup on someone doing 50 while your doing 70.

        In the 1970's Mercedes where one of the first co
  • Original release (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mattr (78516) <mattr@NosPam.telebody.com> on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @02:26PM (#18518421) Homepage Journal
    Waging the good fight against dumbed-down science and research by press release, your masked hero finds.. this.

    Mobile phones can soon survive being dropped [www.nwo.nl]

    Good because you cannot get a patent after publication? Or bad because.. oh phooey. This might be by the same person.

    * In unrelated news is anyone going to be at ETC2007 [iastate.edu]? Neal Stephenson talk and a new hires cave called C6 by Iowa State! Someone video the thing!

    • by hedwards (940851)
      Yeah really, I was shocked at that point in the article when they suggested that the chips in an ipod are more fragile than the hard drive.

      It amazes me that Apple has thus far been able to get away with advertising ipods including the hard disk models for exercise and jogging. And worse that I actually see people doing so, apparently oblivious to the problem with that. I can't say that I blame Apple for pushing for that, but it seems like consumers really ought to look into these things.
      • by mattr (78516)
        My folks just got me a video ipod. I think I can feel the hard drive trying to precess when I play video while walking. It scares me. Also very dangerous, as it messes with your peripheral vision.
    • by mattr (78516)
      The "this" link was slartibartifast. Here [bioinfo.pl] it is. plastic wire research. Anyway I don't know why the PR has to say phones will survive being dropped.. just put rubber in them! Jeez.
    • by LilGuy (150110)
      Oooh sweet!! Do you have to be a student? I'm only a hop skip and jump away from isu!
    • The C6 has been in our (aerospace engineering) building for years, how are they just now having a grand opening? I'm sure I only don't know because they actually do little to no aerospace research in that thing. It just takes up half our building because it looks all cool and high tech.

      Don't mind me, I'm just bitter about never getting to go inside and watch them fold corn proteins :\

  • Neat! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drewzhrodague (606182) <drew@zhr[ ]gue.net ['oda' in gap]> on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @02:27PM (#18518437) Homepage Journal
    That's neat! How long until we can print circuits with something like an ink-jet?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by eheldreth (751767)
      Xerox PARC has had that tech for years now(since like 2002 or 2003) and a company named T-Ink is working with major company's producing everything from fisher price play sets to McDonald's place mats and even inflatable radios.' Click on the partners tab: T-Ink [t-ink.com]
    • by Myrcutio (1006333)
      actually that could be pretty useful, (though you might have meant laserjet, thats the one that melts bits of plastic onto the page), you could download schematics for a PCI card and print it out, cut around the edges, and pop it into your machine. See, everything you ever needed to know about building computers you learned in kindergarden.

      I wonder if Lego could do something cool with this technology.
      • Shit. These kids get all the toys. I had to learn BASIC from an Apple ][ without a manual, or instructions. You know how hard it is to learn a programming language by trial and error? Now we're talking about 5-year-olds printing circuit boards on a printer. Man, if only...
    • by treeves (963993)
      not as simple as printing on your inkjet printer but printed circuits (actual circuits, not like a PCB which should really be called a "printed wiring board" since there aren't any *circuits* on it until the components are soldered on) but some people are already doing things like this: http://www.edn.com/index.asp?layout=article&artic l eid=CA6365831&partner=enews&ref=nbth [edn.com]
      • by treeves (963993)
        Sorry. That sentence makes no sense at all. Should have previewed. Just click on the link and ignore me.
    • by Ant P. (974313)
      I'd rather use it for burning ISOs... of video cards.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @02:29PM (#18518473)
    If this type of plastic can be a conductive substance similar to silicon and costs less to produce, then this could be a huge advantage to those advocating the use of solar power. Currently one of the largest costs in creating solar cells is the high price for silicon which is used in them. The use of a cheap plastic polymer with properties similar to silicon might make solar cells much more reasonable to purchase for a lot of people.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Polymer solar cells have already been made, there are some efficiency issues but they are incredibly cheap. The problem with them is that they disintegrate very quickly. As far as I understood, this was the real problem with conducting polymers of all sorts (the thiophenes, etc.) as far as I know. Anyone know the current status of this?
      • Polymer solar cells have already been made, there are some efficiency issues but they are incredibly cheap. The problem with them is that they disintegrate very quickly. As far as I understood, this was the real problem with conducting polymers of all sorts (the thiophenes, etc.) as far as I know. Anyone know the current status of this?

        There's been a little progress -- within the last year somebody announced that he developed a polymer solar cell that might be able to last 5 years in the field. I don't

  • Has anyone told Packard Bell yet?
  • http://www.docinthemachine.com/ [docinthemachine.com] reported in January on the development of a product called Electriplast that is a resin based electrically conductive plastic- and that is commercially available. I believe it has potential in the medical device market as well as consumer electronics. You can read more about the product at : http://docinthemachine.com/2007/01/08/electriplast / [docinthemachine.com] "Electriplast is a highly conductive recipe that can be molded into virtually any shape or dimension associated with the range of p
    • from conductive plastic, and NASA had it for whatever on earth for in the 60s.

      merely conductive plastic is easy to do, dump a bunch of carbon into the vat. somebody probably came up with it in the lab in the 30s or 40s, took it panting to their supervisor, who promptly said, "so what the hell can I do with conductive.... plastic insulation? Perkins, you need to take Friday off."
    • by PagosaSam (884523)
      Here's another company selling this stuff, http://www.premix.fi/index.php [premix.fi]

      I don't see the uniqueness of this new plastic. Besides, I thought all LCD displays used conductive plastics.

  • If it is only partially conductive, the ESD (Electro-Static Discharge) properties would get my attention (safe discharge paths for cheap). And if it could shield the circuits from emissions and susceptibility, it would be a winner in my book.
  • Oh good (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ObligatoryUserName (126027) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @03:07PM (#18518969) Journal
    I don't think we had enough uses for oil yet.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ductonius (705942)
      Strong, flexible plastics replaced metal for many products because plastic is much cheaper to produce. I would wager that conductive plastics would actually decrease the use of oil by generally reducing the amount of resources it takes to produce an electronic product.

      The amount of fuel unused in mining and refining of aluminum and copper would probably cover the increased use of natural gas by electronic manufacturers.

      We may think of oil as expensive, but plastic is still cheaper than metal and has a small
  • by Fjan11 (649654) *
    Insert snide male chauvinist remarks here. For extra points mention plastic and conductivity.
    By the way, she's not bad looking at all, picture (and phone number!) here: http://www.tudelft.nl/live/pagina.jsp?id=40a4cfdf- 683e-4db7-9675-c5c57399329c&la [tudelft.nl]
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I'd conduct her plastic, if you know what I mean.

      How many points do I get?
    • We need a catchy phrase for the whole "Is she hot?" comments that inevitably pop up whenever any female is involved in a story...

      PS... She's not bad!
    • by og_sh0x (520297)
      http://www.tudelft.nl/live/pagina.jsp?id=40a4cfdf- 683e-4db7-9675-c5c57399329c&la [tudelft.nl]

            I saw that link and at first thought, "Pah-jy-nah? WTF?" Then I realized it was Spanish. "Oh, pah-hee-nah! That explains it!"
      • by TeknoHog (164938)
        At first glans I thought I saw a 'vagina' there, but I guess it's just my dirty subconscious playing with my spelling...
    • Sorry, no snide remarks here.

      Why is it such a big deal that it's a girl? The only exceptional (and sorry) thing is that there aren't more of them. I've worked with mixed teams, and once you get the team past the mainly male side effects (takes a while) such teams work exceptionally well - not in the least because of the different perspectives.

  • News flash: silicon isn't a conductor -- it's a semiconductor. Conductive polymers already exist. This is comparable to announcing that the latest Camaro is faster than a Model T, or that a new digital computing device can perform a million floating-point operations per second.

  • by gt384u (560599) <gte384u@m a i l . g a t e c h.edu> on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @03:38PM (#18519343)
    So I get the sensation that just like everywhere else on Slashdot, a lot of people are out of their depth when it comes to this topic. For some background, might I suggest reading about the work of the three men who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2000 for their work in conductive polymers [nobelprize.org]. These materials are incredible in a myriad of ways, but require a nontrivial understanding of materials to really get it.
    • by n2505d (759637)
      I did extensive work on this during the late 80s and was published as an undergraduate. This is defiantly not new, nor did Prins discover this process. We were using Boron and Argon ions at that time. The end result was a radiation hardened material with a linearly conductive signature.
      • by gt384u (560599)
        Heh, very cool. I worked mostly with self-assembly motifs to form block copolymers. Most of my work with conductive polymers was with polythiophenes or cyclooctatetraene-based systems. You're absolutely right about this being not new. Nobel Prizes are rarely given for recent science. I think 20-25 years after the first papers seems to be about standard these days.
  • Myomer? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Fireye (415617)
    Electrically conductive polymer leads to muscle-type plastic strads, which OBVIOUSLY in turn leads to the development of Battlemechs. So, when can I place my order for a Jenner, or maybe a nice big Battlemaster?
    • by ductonius (705942)
      Jenner? Battlemaster? Everyone knows that the Madcat sets the standard for mech-enthusiast fap material. What kind of geek are you?
  • I can see the headlines now "Conductive Plastic Accidentally Used On Electrical Tools", hilarity ensues. On another note this could a be a huge boom for lots of industries. Too bad we will probably all be dead and gone by the time it is actually useful.
  • Does that mean chips are going to get just as shabby as everything else we've invented in glass, and turned into cheapo plastic versions?
  • "My research shows that the mobility of charges along isolated chains can be as high as the mobility of charges in conventional semiconductors," Prins told LiveScience. "When the organization of the polymer chains in electronic devices is optimized, all-plastic electronic devices can be developed that benefit from this high mobility."

    This means that a bulk of this material will conduct a lot worse than silicon (propably in the order of other conducting polymers). Infact what they have meassured is the absol

  • ...that you'd see in the Civilization 4 technology tree or from Galactic Civilizations 2?

    This stuff matters - I'd like to imagine there's some uber controller directing researching funds for our civilization... and after plastics, the Apollo Program!!! Go Team Human!!!
  • Given the source, I'm skeptical about the accuracy of this article.

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