PORTLAND, Ore.Imagine a foldable iPad that could be stowed in your vest pocketthat is the dream imagined by a team of Duke University researchers showing a new copper nanowire technology for making transparent flexible displays, solar panels and electronic circuitry.
Unlike transparent conductors today, like indium tin oxide (ITO) which is brittle, copper nanowire circuitry will be flexible and cheaper than ITO, according to Duke professor Benjamin Wiley who performed the work with doctoral candidate Aaron Rathmell and undergraduate student Stephen Bergin.
Duke's copper nanowires are also claimed to outperform carbon nanotubes and yet be cheaper than silver nanowire technology, enabling arrays of electronic circuits for display pixels, solar cells or processors, to be contained in a transparent layer that is printed on a flexible plastic substrate at room temperature.
|Tiny copper wires can be built in bulk and then "printed" on a surface to conduct current, transparently, on flexible substrates. |
Credit: Benjamin Wiley, Duke Chemistry
The solution-based chemistry used to synthesize the copper nanowires allows for their self-assembly at specifically seeded sites, permitting their controlled growth into arrays that can be processed using high-volume roll-to-roll manufacturing processes that lower the cost of mass production compared with ITO today.
Next the researchers want solve several remaining problems, such as a tendency among the copper nanowires to clump together, thereby reducing their transparency. Also. a method for preventing oxidation, which decreases conductivity, will also be addressed in follow up studies at Duke.