This is an archived article. For the latest news, go to the Advance Homepage.
For more archives, go to the Advance Archive/Search Page

Polymers the topic of IMS distinguished lecture

One of the leading researchers in conducting and semiconducting polymers will deliver the Institute of Materials Science (IMS) Distinguished Lecture on Thursday, December 4, at 4 p.m.

Alan Heeger, director of the Institute for Polymers and Organic Solids at the University of California, Santa Barbara, will speak on Light Emission from Semiconducting Polymers: LEDs, Lasers and White Light for the Future. The lecture will take place in Room 20 of the Materials Science Building in the Edward V. Gant Science Complex.

Polymers play a major role in the modern world, Heeger says. They are macromolecules in which a single structural unit is repeated many, many times. They can be fabricated into useful forms and shapes, such as films, fibers and molded parts.

A few years ago, the idea that traditional organic polymers could exhibit electrical and optical properties, as metals and semiconductors do, would have been considered impossible, says Fotios Papadimitrakopoulos, an assistant professor of chemistry and materials science.

"Polymers are like chains that are linked together," says Papadimitrakopoulos, whose area of expertise is optoelectronics polymers. "Polymers used to be insulators for cables and wires but Alan and his colleagues reversed that notion and made them conductors."

Heeger and Alan Macdiarmide, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and Hideki Shirakwa, a professor at the University of Tsukuba in Japan, discovered metallic conducting polymers, a class of materials with electrical conductivity approaching that of copper and with strength exceeding that of steel.

"With their discovery, the three have provided a shoulder for other scientists in the field to stand on," says Papadimitrakopoulos. "They are like fathers to me. I started my career in polymers five years ago and I can't forget the foundation that these people have established in this field."

The development of these polymers into stable materials is suitable for broad use by industry in a wide range of applications, Heeger says. For example, light-emitting devices fabricated from semiconducting polymers have shown brightness capable or equivalent to that of a fluorescent bulb at only a few volts.

Heeger, who has more than 20 patents issued and pending, will be the 23rd person to deliver the IMS Distinguished Lecture. The presenters have included six Nobel laureates.

"We bring in truly distinguished people to give our faculty an opportunity to interact with people who are the leading researchers in materials and sciences," says Harris Marcus, a professor of engineering and director of IMS. "Not only can we learn from them, but those individuals will get an opportunity to be exposed to some of our own research in their area of expertise."

The strides being made by Heeger will be addressed in the biomaterials and nanomaterials optoelectronics section of IMS, Papadimitrakopoulos adds.

Luis Mocete