Oil and water don't mix, but add in some nanofibers and all bets are off.
A team of UCLA chemists and engineers has developed a new method for coating large surfaces with nanofiber thin films that are both transparent and electrically conductive. Their method involves the vigorous agitation of water, dense oil and polymer nanofibers. After this solution is sufficiently agitated it spreads over virtually any surface, creating a film.
"The beauty of this method lies in its simplicity and versatility," said California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) researcher Richard B. Kaner, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry and a professor of materials science and engineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. "The materials used are inexpensive and recyclable, the process works on virtually any substrate, it produces a uniform thin film which grows in seconds and the entire thing can be done at room temperature."
Conducting polymers combine the flexibility and toughness of plastics with electrical properties. They have been proposed for applications ranging from printed electronic circuits to supercapacitors but have failed to gain widespread use because of difficulties processing them into films.
"Conducting polymers have enormous potential in electronics, and because this technique works with so many substrates, it can be used in a broad spectrum of applications, including organic solar cells, light-emitting diodes, smart glass and sensors," said Yang Yang, a professor of materials science and engineering at the Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and faculty director of the Nano Renewable Energy Center at the CNSI.
One of the potential applications is smart, or switchable, glass that can change between states when an electric current is applied for example, switching between see-through and opaque states to let light in or block it. The UCLA research group is applying
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University of California - Los Angeles