The best of both worlds
IRIS Scientists develop hybrid systems for optics and electronics
What are the advanced materials supposed to have that the electronics of the future so desperately needs? “More speed, more brightness, more performance – and above all more multifunctionality,” replied Jürgen Rabe, Physics Professor at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and chairman of IRIS (Integrative Research Institute for the Sciences) Adlershof. Silicon alone, the traditional material of semiconductor technology, can help to achieve these properties only with great difficulty. New substances must now be found that, for example, are electrically conducting, yet transparent, exhibit large areas, and yet are flexible. Set up in 2009 and now employing a workforce of about 100, the institute specialising in hybrid systems for optics and electronics took up this challenge.
”Our work involves combining the properties of classical semiconductors with those of advanced materials,” explained professor Rabe. Highly promising candidates are 2D materials like graphenes. Consisting of an ultra thin sheet of carbon atoms, this inorganic substance conducts electricity, is extremely resistant to tearing, and is also elastic. The material can be mixed over a large area with organic substances – molecules and polymers. Integrating nitrogen atoms lends the substance semiconductor properties. Recently, a group headed by Rabe was the first to manufacture this carbon nitride.
“We intend to utilise the short paths in Adlershof and also fetch new players on board,” claimed Rabe. Contributions will also be supplied by the new, adjoining research building whose completion is planned for 2018. Approximately 4500 square metres will provide the workspace for about 140 scientists dedicated to interdisciplinary research into organic-inorganic hybrid materials. These will include chemists, physicists, material scientists, and even theorists who are indispensable for the calculations involving macromolecules at the boundary surfaces.
Rabe also sees his team’s tasks in generating synergies between the understanding of scientific principles and their technical application in new products. This is helped by contacts with startups and established companies building up new lines of business and by joint ventures with strategic partners, also on the national and international levels. It therefore comes as no surprise that IRIS is one of the chief partners on the new material network INAM.
By Paul Janositz for Adlershof Special