Flexible and Smart: the New World of “Organic” Electronics
Organic electronics, also known as plastic or printable electronics, are being used in more and more technologies these days—in everything from novel flexible phone and television displays to highly efficient lighting to inexpensive photovoltaics (a technology that converts sunlight into electricity in solar panels). Organic electronics use polymers or small carbon-based molecule semiconductors instead of traditional silicon-based semiconductors. This adds flexibility and reduces manufacturing costs.
As Canada Research Chair in Advanced Polymer Materials and Organic Electronics, Dr. Benoit Lessard is looking at another growing application of organic electronics: highly specific sensors. These wearable sensors can detect key physiological data (such as core temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, etc.), store data, and even administer drugs.
For example, inexpensive toxic gas sensors could improve chemical processing and safety at chemical plants; highly specific sensors with ultra-fast response times could be used to detect drinking water contamination on-site, or to test athletes for the use of performance-enhancing drugs; and pressure-sensitive sensors could even give robots and burn victims the sense of touch.
Lessard and his research team will focus on the use of “smart” polymers (which can respond to stimuli) in organic electronics sensors, and study how the environment affects the resulting devices. They hope to produce bendable, highly specific, organic electronic sensors that could be used for things such as environmental monitoring, better efficiency in chemical plants, and novel healthcare systems to improve quality of life.