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Thin copolymer films to speed up microprocessors

Posted: 17 May 2012     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:thin films  polymers  flexible electronics  nanolithography  research 

Researchers have developed new class of thin films based on hybrid copolymers that could increase the capacity of hard discs and the speed of microprocessors, and also give rise to numerous applications in flexible electronics, in areas as diverse as nanolithography, biosensors and photovoltaic cells.

The development of a new combination of polymers associating sugars with oil-based macromolecules makes it possible to design ultra-thin films capable of self-organisation with a 5nm resolution.

Until now, the thin films used in electronic circuits have been designed from synthetic polymers exclusively derived from petroleum. However, these thin films have limitations: their minimum structural resolution is around 20nm and cannot be reduced further by combining petroleum-derived polymers.

"This limit has been one of the main obstacles to the development of new generations of very-high-resolution flexible electronic devices," the researchers said.

This new hybrid material combines sugar-based and petroleum-derived (silicon containing polystyrene) polymers with widely different physical/chemical characteristics. This copolymer, formed of highly incompatible elementary building blocks, is similar to an oil bubble attached to a small water bubble.

This type of structure is capable of organising itself into sugar cylinders within a petroleum-based polymer lattice, each structure having a size of 5nm, i.e. much smaller than the resolution of "old" copolymers, exclusively composed of petroleum derivatives. In addition, this new generation of material is made from an abundant, renewable and biodegradable resource: sugar.

According to the researchers, the material could lead to miniaturisation of circuit lithography, a six-fold increase in information storage capacity, enhanced performance of photovoltaic cells, biosensors, etc.

The researchers are now seeking to improve control of these nano-glycofilms' large-scale organisation and design in different self-organised structures.

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