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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/P000525/1
Title: Origin of the Strong Induced Chiroptical Effect in Semiconducting Polymer/Helicene Blends
Principal Investigator: Campbell, Dr AJ
Other Investigators:
Fuchter, Dr Matthew
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Cambridge Display Technology Ltd (CDT)
Department: Dept of Physics
Organisation: Imperial College London
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 January 2017 Ends: 31 December 2019 Value (£): 424,709
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials Characterisation
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Electronics
Related Grants:
EP/P002250/1
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
12 May 2016 EPSRC Physical Sciences Materials and Physics - May 2016 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Organic semiconductors form the basis of optoelectronic devices such as organic light emitting diodes, organic solar cells and organic field-effect transistors. These devices are very thin, lightweight and flexible, and can be fabricated over large areas from solution by simple printing techniques under ambient conditions.

One of the most developed areas in organic electronics is that of organic light emitting diode (OLED) based displays for mobile phones, tablets and televisions; these make a major contribution to a multi-billion dollar global industry. We have recently discovered a method to produce an OLED that emits circularly-polarized light. This very simple method involves blending a conventional light emitting semiconducting polymer with a helically shaped molecule known as a helicene. The helically shaped molecule somehow causes the spaghetti-like polymer chains to change conformation, resulting in the polymer emitting circularly-polarized (CP) light. Such a CP emitting OLED has application in conventional OLED displays, 3-D OLED displays, and as backlights in liquid-crystal displays. For example, to improve contrast, most displays contain a top circularly-polarized filter to remove back-reflected light. A CP emitting OLED would allow all the emitted light to pass through this filter, potentially doubling the energy efficiency of the display. This would reduce global energy consumption, increase battery life of portable products, and increase display lifetime. Other potential applications of CP emitting OLEDs include protein detection in biomedicine, optical spintronics, optical quantum computing, and conventional and quantum optical telecommunication.

Despite the success of our simple and novel method, we do not understand the principle of how mixing the polymer with the helicene results in a change in the polymers structure allowing it to emit CP light. The purpose of this grant is to actually understand this process, finding out exactly how the polymers structure is affected by blending with the helicene. We will investigate how this phase forms when the mixture is heated and cooled; how this changes with polymer chain length and polymer/helicene ratio; how we can generate this phase by solution processing using different solvents and different annealing treatments; whether a helical liquid crystal phase can form; and how these factors affect thin film morphology and microstructure. We will also investigate the CP light emission process, looking at factors such as whether CP light absorbed by the helicene can result in CP emission from the polymer. The particular semiconducting polymer concerned (F8BT) is known to transport both electrons and holes; we will investigate charge transport in the novel helical phase. We will take all the processing knowledge and create an optimized CP-OLED, with a high CP light output, brightness and efficiency. We will also investigate other similar semiconducting polymers which emit CP light when blended with helicenes, looking at their structural, spectroscopic and electronic properties.

This project involves an ideal synergy between teams in the Departments of Physics and Chemistry at Imperial College London and in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield, the former covering spectroscopic, electronic and device measurements and the latter covering structural and morphological measurements and modeling. It will also involve a partnership with Cambridge Display Technology (UK), supplying high performance polymers and expertise, and enabling rapid transfer of the technology towards the marketplace.

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