Saturday, February 26, 2011

How to conduct electricity by using Plastic

Plastics usually conduct electricity so poorly that they are used to insulate electric cables. But, now scientists claim to have created a new array of plastics that can conduct electricity just like metal does. By placing a thin film of metal onto a plastic sheet and mixing it into the polymer surface with an ion beam, an international team has shown that the method can be used to make cheap, strong, flexible and conductive plastic films.

"What the team has been able to do here is use an ion beam to tune the properties of a plastic film so that it conducts electricity like the metals used in the electrical wires themselves, and even to act as a superconductor and pass electric current without resistance if cooled to low enough temperature," Prof Paul Meredith of University of Queensland, who led the team, said.

To demonstrate a potential application of this new material, the team produced electrical resistance thermometers that meet industrial standards. Tested against an industry standard platinum resistance thermometer, it had comparable or even superior accuracy. "This material is so interesting because we can take all the desirable aspects of polymers - such as mechanical flexibility, robustness and low cost - and into the mix add good electrical conductivity, something not associated with plastics.

It opens new avenues to making plastic electronics,"Prof. Adam Micolich of University of New South Wales, a team member, said. Team member Andrew Stephenson said the most exciting part about  the discovery is how precisely the film's ability to conduct or resist the flow of electrical current can be tuned. It opens up a broad potential for useful applications. "In fact, we can vary the electrical resistivity over 10 orders of magnitude. In theory, we can make plastics that conduct no electricity or as well as metals do - and everything in between," he said.

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