The invention opens the door to a new generation of high-performance electronic devices that will be biodegradable.
Scientists have developed a thin, flexible semiconductor, partly using organic materials, that can efficiently convert electricity into light and could help make bendable smartphones.
The invention, by researchers at the Australian National University (ANU), also opens the door to a new generation of high-performance electronic devices that will be biodegradable or can be easily recycled, promising to help substantially reduce e-waste.
The huge volumes of e-waste generated by discarded electronic devices around the world is causing irreversible damage to the environment. The organic component has the thickness of just one atom -- made from just carbon and hydrogen -- and forms part of the semiconductor.
The inorganic component has the thickness of around two atoms. The hybrid structure can convert electricity into light efficiently for displays on mobile phones, televisions and other electronic devices.
"For the first time, we have developed an ultra-thin electronics component with excellent semiconducting properties that is an organic-inorganic hybrid structure and thin and flexible enough for future technologies, such as bendable mobile phones and display screens," said Larry Lu, associate professor at ANU.
PhD researcher Ankur Sharma said experiments demonstrated the performance of their semiconductor would be much more efficient than conventional semiconductors made with inorganic materials such as silicon.
"We have the potential with this semiconductor to make mobile phones as powerful as today's supercomputers," said Sharma.
"The light emission from our semiconducting structure is very sharp, so it can be used for high-resolution displays and, since the materials are ultra-thin, they have the flexibility to be made into bendable screens and mobile phones in the near future," he said.
The team grew the organic semiconductor component molecule by molecule, in a similar way to 3D printing. The process is called chemical vapour deposition.
"We characterised the optoelectronic and electrical properties of our invention to confirm the tremendous potential of it to be used as a future semiconductor component," Lu said.