Materials Science

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Vertical challenge for organic semiconductors

Vertical challenge for organic semiconductors

Vertical growth of conducting tetraaniline crystals could lead to a new approach to efficient and powerful organic semiconductor technology thanks to work by Richard Kaner of the California NanoSystems Institute at the University of California Los Angeles and colleagues. The work could ultimately improve solar energy capture devices by allowing technologists to grow "light antennas", thin, pole-like devices on a substrate that could absorb light from all directions rather than being monodirectional as is the case with current smooth solar panels. [ACS Nano; DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.5b03465]

By working with a graphene substrate, the UCLA team was able to grow spikes of crystalline tetraaniline from solution. Vertical growth is rare and difficult to carry out with conventional inorganic semiconducting materials, such as silicon, although vertical growth with organic semiconductors had proven even tougher. The main motivation for vertical growth is that many long, thin crystals can be packed together on a surface. "Vertically oriented structures of single crystalline conductors and semiconductors are of great technological importance due to their directional charge carrier transport, high device density, and interesting optical properties," the team says.

"These crystals are analogous to organizing a table covered with scattered pencils into a pencil cup," explains Yue "Jessica" Wang, a former UCLA doctoral student who now is a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University and was the first author on the ACS Nano paper. "The vertical orientation can save a great deal of space, and that could mean smaller, more efficient personal electronics in the near future." Kaner and Wang worked with Xiangfeng Duan, Yves Rubin, Adam Stieg, graduate students James Torres, Shan Jiang and Michael Yeung, and Santanu Chaudhuri of the Illinois Applied Research Institute at University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

In preliminary experiments Kaner and his colleagues discovered that they could guide the tetraaniline solution to grow vertical crystals, and once this technique was understood, they next developed a one-step method for growing highly ordered, vertically aligned crystals for a variety of organic semiconductors using the same graphene substrate.

"The key was deciphering the interactions between organic semiconductors and graphene in various solvent environments," Wang explains. "Once we understood this complex mechanism, growing vertical organic crystals became simple."

Using graphene as the substrate had several advantages over conventional substrates, Kaner adds. "This technique enables us to pattern crystals wherever we want," he explains. "You could make electronic devices from these semiconductor crystals and grow them precisely in intricate patterns required for the device you want, such as thin-film transistors or light-emitting diodes." Tests on the tetraaniline system showed that charge carriers could travel most efficiently along the vertical interfacial stacking direction with a conductivity of 12.3 Siemens per centimetre in individual crystals, the team reports, which is the highest reported to date for an aniline oligomer.

"We are trying to grow vertical crystals on other layered compounds such as boron nitride and molybdenum disulfide to form different types of heterojunctions that can serve as the building blocks for various electronic devices," team member Jessica Wang told Materials Today.

David Bradley blogs at Sciencebase Science Blog and tweets @sciencebase, he is author of the bestselling science book "Deceived Wisdom".

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Materials Awards

Elsevier awards researchers and research organizations throughout the world who have been credited with outstanding achievements and are making a significant contribution to the advancement of their field, thereby having a positive influence on our society.

The prizes are a tribute to the men and women who have contributed to the progress of humanity through their dedication to science. Serving as a source of inspiration, the awards help raise the profile of talented individuals and the organizations, in addition to the profession as a whole. 

Elsevier is proud to support the following awards in materials science:

Acta Gold Medal Awards in Material Science - Acta MaterialiaActa Gold Medal Awards in Material Science – Acta BiomaterialiaMaterials Today Cover Competition Materials Science and Engineering C: Young Researcher Award – Materials Science and Engineering: C
Carbon Journal Prize – Carbon
Young Scholar Prize – Diamond and Related Materials
John H. Dillon Medal – Polymer
Feng Xinde Polymer Prize for Best Chinese Paper – Polymer Materials Science and Engineering: A Journal Prize – Materials Science and Engineering: A
Nano Today Cover Competition: Nano Today Biomaterials: A Year in Images – Biomaterials
Robert Cahn Award – Journal of Nuclear Materials
Nano Today Award – Nano Today
Hermen F. Mark Award – Polymer
Hermen Mark Scholar Awards - Polymer


TXRF Workshop – 13 October 2015

Find out more about TXRF (Total Reflection X-Ray Fluorescence spectrometry) trace analysis and try it out using your own samples at a TXRF Workshop. The workshop will be on Tuesday 13th October 2015 at St. John’s Innovation Centre in Cambridge, right by Cambridge Science Park.

You’ll be able to see the Bruker S2 PICOFOX in action, as well as how it works and the range of applications it can be used for. Meet an expert applications scientist from Bruker, with time to discuss your own research.


About TXRF:

TXRF delivers multi-element trace analysis, with detection limits in the ppb and ppm range. The Bruker S2 PICOFOX is the world’s first portable benchtop spectrometer, for fast quantitative and semi-quantitative microanalysis of liquids, suspensions, solids and contaminations.


- Detect trace elements down to ppb and ppm range

- Small sample quantities in the nanogram or microgram range

- Faster and easier sample preparation than ICP-MS

- Low running costs – no consumables, gas or liquid nitrogen

- Simultaneous multi-element analysis


TXRF Applications:

TXRF is extremely flexible and can be used for a huge variety of applications. If your application isn’t mentioned here, please get in touch!


- Authentication – in pharmaceuticals and forensics

- Food – nutrients, dietary supplements and beverages

- Contamination analysis of wafers, solar cells, OLEDs and nano-particles

- Quality control of pure substances and industrial products

- Clinical chemistry – tissues and biological liquids

- Environmental analysis – contamination of water and soil

- Ideal Complement to ICP-MS


TXRF works well as a complement to ICP-MS analysis, or as an economical alternative. Run samples quickly, saving you time and money:


- Lower running costs

- Quick and easy sample preparation

- Fast analysis – just over 15 minutes to run a sample

- No coolants

- Excellent ppb sensitivity


TXRF Workshop:

Book a place on the workshop now, and discover more about multi-element trace analysis with TXRF:


- Try TXRF using your own samples and see the results

- Expert presentations about the theory and practice of TXRF analysis

- Walk-through the technique and how it works

- Discuss your research with a TXRF applications scientist

- All your questions answered


The presentations will run from 10am until 2pm, with time afterwards for discussion, questions and testing your samples. Lunch and refreshments will be provided.


Book your Place Now!

The workshop will be on Tuesday 13th October 2015. There is no charge to attend, but spaces are limited. Reserve your place now on

Visit event website

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