Goodbye, Silicon? On the way to new materials for electronics

October 17, 2018 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
In certain cases, a new organometallic material could replace silicon as a semiconductor, as show the experiments conducted by a group of scientists from Bulgaria, Germany and Spain. The material can be produced by simple means at room temperature. Scientists see potential applications above all in optoelectronics.

Today, silicon is primarily used in the manufacture of electronic components such as solar cells, LEDs or computer chips. High-purity silicon, which is very expensive to manufacture, is required for these applications. Scientists around group leader Dr. Enrique Cánovas from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research MPI-P (Bonn, Germany) have developed a new and cost-effective material, a so-called "metal-organic framework" (MOF), which has similar electrical properties to silicon.

The MOF, which was produced by a team of scientists led by Xinliang Feng in Dresden, is a highly crystalline solid body composed of iron ions bonded together by organic molecules. Because of this composition it is called a metal-organic network. In contrast to silicon, the material can be produced at room temperature. Parameters such as composition, properties and electronic properties can be easily controlled during the manufacturing process.

Networks manufactured in the past showed little or no electrical conductivity. This prevented their use in optoelectronic components, where sufficient electron mobility is required in the material when an electric field is applied. With the newly manufactured MOF, the researchers from Mainz have now shown that the electrons in the organic-based material behave similarly to those in silicon: When an external electric field - i.e. a voltage - is applied, the electrons can largely move freely in the material. In organically based materials, this behavior has hardly been observed so far.

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