Organic hybrid materials that could be electrically and optically monitored
Transforming a building facade into a large solar panel by simply painting it with a special paint; compact screens which can be folded into one's pocket; cheap disposable biosensors for medical analyses; photovoltaic clothes that can charge small electrical devices. Here are some of the revolutionary, almost space-age products which may be developed in the future thanks to the new “organic electronic” materials researched by a young Italian innovator, Emanuele Orgiu.
During his years at the Supramolecular Sciences and Engineering Institute of the University of Strasbourg (France), Orgiu focused his research specifically on organic materials, combining the versatility of semiconductive polymers with a photosensitive element, being able to draw the benefits of the two, that is materials that can be controlled both optically and electrically: this may lead to transistors (and therefore electronic circuits) which can be switched by phototuning by modulating the wavelength of the light irradiating it, as detailed in his and his team's study published on Nature Chemistry in 2012.
If silica is the undiscussed leader in today's consumer electronics, organic semiconductors have some clear advantages in that they are flexible and large areas can be printed with low-cost technology. By adding the optical properties, an extremely versatile material is found that can be utilised in a huge variety of applications. To do so, Orgiu keeps his research well grounded into practical applications, as shown by his comprehensive background: during his PhD in France, he spent time in the R&D department of Konarka Austria GmbH, a major photovoltaic components maker, and added to this an MBA from Leavey Business School at Santa Clara University (USA). “They taught me the modern sense of innovation: something that can scientifically transform and impact daily life.’’ says Orgiu today.
This is why this young innovator, at the age of 34, can already exhibit the creation of a start-up called TechOnYou in 2008 in his home town, Cagliari (Italy), which focused on the development of a system for remote monitoring of patients with diabetic and cardiovascular diseases, now close to commercialization, and has now been appointed to coordinate the European UPGRADE (Bottom-Up Blueprinting Graphene Based Electronics) project whose objective is the development and tuning of prototypes for the fabrication of nanometric graphene strips to be used in electronic devices.
If electronics are to become cheap and disposable, and have an even greater impact in all sectors of human activity, no matter how small, it may have to go organic. Orgiu will no doubt be there to tell the story.