A University of Texas researcher has developed a modified plastic that can carry variable electric currents.
Dr. Yueh-Lin (Lynn) Loo, an assistant professor of chemical engineering, studies, said the plastic - called polyaniline - could serve as flexible, inexpensive wiring in products such as foldable electronic displays and medical sensors.
By combining polyaniline with a chemical that gives it conductivity, Loo discovered she could increase the plastic's conductivity one- to six-fold based on the version of the chemical added. The results involving the chemical polymer acid were published in the April 7 issue of the Journal of Materials Chemistry.
According to Loo, chemically altered polyaniline has advantages over the more commonly used conductive metals, like gold and copper, in devices other than computers. For example, Loo's previous research has demonstrated that "doped" polyaniline can be manufactured in solution at room temperatures and without vacuum chambers. Producing metal-based wires requires special manufacturing conditions in addition to the high cost of the metals.
"Understanding how the structure of this polyaniline material changes when its conductivity changes will be crucial for selecting the right material for different consumer applications," Loo said.
She noted that the ability of the plastic to change colours depending on whether it was conductive or not could be especially useful.
"Its general versatility could lead to a variety of new consumer products in upcoming years," she added.
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