May 23 2022Reviewed by Alex Smith
According to new research, organic crystals, a new class of smart engineering materials, can end up serving as sustainable and efficient energy conversion materials for sophisticated technologies such as robotics and electronics.
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The study was carried out by a team of researchers from the NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Smart Materials Lab and was published in the journal Nature Communications
Organic crystals were initially believed to be fragile, but the NYUAD scientists observed that some organic crystals are mechanically very strong. They created a material that sets a new world record for its ability to alter shape by expanding or contracting over half of its length without losing its perfectly ordered structure.
The group, headed by NYUAD Professor of Chemistry Panče Naumov, explained how organic crystalline material responded to various temperatures. The scientists discovered that organic crystals could reversibly change shape in the same way that plastics and rubber could.
This material, in particular, could expand and contract repeatedly over half of its length (51%) without deterioration over thousands of cycles. It could also expand and contract at room temperature, unlike other materials that need a higher temperature to transform, resulting in higher operating costs.
Unlike conventional silicon or silica-based materials, which are heavy, stiff, and brittle, future electronics materials will be soft and organic in nature. These advanced technologies necessitate materials that are light, durable, and efficient in performance, along with mechanical flexibility and the ability to operate sustainably with low energy consumption.
For the first time, the findings of this study show that some organic crystalline materials meet the requirements of these technologies and can be used in soft robotics, artificial muscles, organic optics, and organic electronics (electronics created solely from organic materials).
This latest discovery from the Smart Materials Lab at NYUAD builds on a series of our previous discoveries about the untapped potential of this new class of materials, which includes adaptive crystals, self-healing crystals, and organic crystalline materials with shape memory.
Panče Naumov, Professor, Chemistry, New York University, Abu Dhabi
Naumov adds, “Our work has shown that organic crystals can not only meet the needs of the emerging technologies but in some cases can also surpass the levels of efficiency and sustainability of other, more common materials.”
Karothu, D. P., et al. (2022) Exceptionally high work density of a ferroelectric dynamic organic crystal around room temperature. Nature Communications. doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-30541-y.