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New materials tickle the imagination: is printed material with moving images in the offing?

17 September 2010

Hybrids of organic and inorganic materials have intriguing properties –  they are flexible and soluble, and also have magnetic properties which can be used to achieve a memory effect. This combination could in future lead to a special application: videos printed in ink.  Chemist Anne Arkenbout will be awarded a PhD on 24 September 2010 by the University of Groningen for her fundamental research into these remarkable materials.

Inorganic materials have good magnetic and conductive properties which makes them suitable for electronic components. Organic materials, on the other hand, lack these characteristics but are flexible, cheap and soluble. Using solutions containing both an organic and a inorganic component, Arkenbout created hybrid crystals combining the favourable characteristics of both: the hybrids formed in the solution had magnetic properties comparable to those of insoluble inorganic materials.

Self-organizing sheets

The solutions Arkenbout studied crystallized into hybrid crystal structures by themselves while drying. She studied various combinations of organic and inorganic materials. The inorganic groups in particular influenced the magnetic properties of the hybrid. The tested groups – manganese, iron, copper, nickel and cobalt – behaved very differently in the hybrid crystal, despite the fact that they are chemically closely related. Manganese, iron and copper organize themselves into sheets surrounded by the organic material. Nickel, however, does not form sheets but chains, while cobalt forms islands.

Memory effect

Arkenbout discovered that this structure is essential to the resulting magnetic properties of the hybrid. The hybrids that form sheets demonstrate a magnetic memory effect, while the materials that form chains and islands hardly do so. The memory effect occurs at a temperature of two hundred degrees below Celsius, yet Arkenbout feels that there are sufficient possibilities to adapt the crystals to produce the effect at room temperature.

Printable electronics

The combination of solubility and memory effect could be used in printable magnetic electronics. Arkenbout thinks that functional inks could be the future – inks that after drying form a memory comparable to today’s memory chip. There have been a number of organic electronic products launched in recent years, such as the flexible screens (OLED – organic light emitting diodes) found in some e-readers. The development of printable memory could even make printing moving images possible in future, according to Arkenbout, instead of today’s static pictures.

Curriculum vitae

Anne H. Arkenbout (Groningen, 1983) studied chemistry at the University of Groningen, specializing in Nanoscience. She conducted her research at the Solid State Materials for Electronics department at the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials. The research was financed by  NanoNed. Arkenbout will be awarded a PhD in Mathematics and Natural Sciences and was supervised by Prof. T.T.M. Palstra. The title of her thesis is Organic-Inorganic Hybrids - A Route Towards Soluble Magnetic Electronics.

Last modified:13 March 2020 01.58 a.m.
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