Organic chemistry’s role in the future of screens and energy conversion

Plastics (polymers) and other organic materials are typically thought of as insulating materials that surround conducting metals (e.g. copper) to protect us from shocks. However, through careful design, a class of so-called “pi-conjugated” organic compounds and polymers can be both semiconducting and conducting, and can be processed as flexible and in some cases stretchable thin films. In addition, these materials can be tuned to absorb and emit light across the visible spectrum. These pi-conjugated materials have been incorporated into devices such as organic light emitting diode (OLED) based displays common in cell phones (e.g. Samsung phones and the iPhone X) and now televisions (LG). OLEDs are now a multi-billion dollar market (> $10 billion expected in 2018), that is forecasted to grow rapidly over the next decade. OLEDs are now under active development for a variety of high efficiency light applications, with high-end lumenaires being marketed by a variety of companies. In addition, these materials have found use in organic solar cells, and also as components in a new class of highly efficient “perovskite” solar cells.

In this presentation, Professor Seth Marder, Visitor to Oxford Martin Senior Fellow, Professor Henry Snaith, will provide a brief introduction to how chemists develop these materials, introduce the basic working concepts of OLEDs and photovoltaics, show how organic compounds have been used in these technologies, and touch on both the strengths and weaknesses of organic materials for these various applications.