Polymers can behave like insulators, semiconductors and metals -- as well as semimetals. Twenty researchers, under the leadership of Xavier Crispin, Docent in organic electronics at Linköping University, are behind the breakthrough published in Nature Materials.
Traditional plastics, or polymers, are electrical insulators. In the seventies, a new class of polymers that conduct electricity like semiconductors and metals was discovered by Alan J.Heeger, Alan G. MacDiarmid and Hideki Shirakawa. Now Xavier Crispin, Docent in organic electronics at Linköping University's Department of Science and Technology, has led a project where no fewer than twenty researchers from five universities worldwide have collaborated to prove that polymers can also be semimetals. A few years ago Xavier Crispin discovered that conductive polymers can be thermoelectric. A thermoelectric material undergoes a diffusion of electronic charge carriers to the cold region when the material is submitted to a temperature gradient. As a result an electric potential is created between the cold and hot side of the material. This thermo-voltage is the basis of thermo-couples used for instance in an everyday oven thermometer. The experiments yielded a high thermoelectric effect, a Seebeck effect, which indicated that we were dealing with semimetals. “But we needed proof," says Dr Crispin.
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