The Future of Green Electronics

02 December 2016

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Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Alessio Gagliardi, Assistant Professor of Simulation of Nanosystems for Energy Conversion at the Technical University of Munich, speaks to us during his recent trip to Singapore. This was his first time teaching in Singapore in the joint NTU-TUM Master of Science in Green Electronics, which has its roots in the Microelectronics programme, with the recent revision in curriculum and name to allow the course to meet the latest needs of the industry.

Hi Prof, can you give us a brief insight into your work at TUM?

Prof Gagliardi: My main research interest is in nano-structured devices and organic semiconductor materials. We live in an extremely exciting period for such fields as they are flourishing and the devices based on this materials and their nano-structuring are starting to pass from lab prototypes to real products for the market. Look at the example of the exploit of organic LEDs for displays. In this sense we can say that the field is starting to be mature from an engineering point of view. I expect that many more applications will be available to the market soon. Although many researchers are working on this area, the field is growing so fast that there is still a need for skilled talent in both academics as well as in the industry.

Cool! We understand that you’ve worked on European research projects. Can you share with us how one of your research projects have evolved?

Prof Gagliardi: Previously, I was part of a European project for the development of flexible memories using organic semiconductors (HYMEC). It was very appealing to me as the project involved many ways to create a switching device. Part of the project was also devoted to trying to make such memories optically addressable and it was technologically very challenging. Overall, it was a very interesting project linking many different topics, from engineering to chemistry to some fundamental condensed matter physics.

“The field is growing so fast that there is still a need for skilled talent in both academics as well as in the industry.” Professor Alessio Gagliardi

It is very interesting to hear that your work transcends the traditional field of engineering alone. You taught the Polymer Electronics module in the Green Electronics programme. Can you tell us more about your module?

Prof Gagliardi: Polymer electronics is about doing electronics using semiconducting polymers, also known as semiconducting plastic. These new materials merge the nice mechanical properties of plastic such as flexibility and elasticity and make it easy to process them with the electronic properties of a semiconductor. This opens interesting perspectives about flexible devices and circuits that can be literally printed with more or less the same technology it is used to print on T-shirts or text on paper. There are clearly many possible applications of such cheap, flexible electronics. Moreover, this technology can be easily integrated with previous inorganic materials.

What are the practical implications of Polymer Electronics from a student’s perspective?

Prof Gagliardi: First of all, I hope that they will understand the potentiality of this technology. It happens often that polymer electronics is presented as a competitor of current electronics based mainly on silicon and other inorganic semiconductors. That is not correct in my view as they are just complementary technologies that can be easily integrated. Secondly, I hope that they will understand more about quantum mechanics. This is a crucial aspect of nanotechnology and organic semiconductors belong to this area of research. Thirdly, that I would be able to show new ways in which we can combine top-down to bottom-up fabrication approaches to improve device performances. Last but not least, it is to portray to them a multidisciplinary field where knowledge in physics, chemistry and engineering are required.

“Polymer electronics is about doing electronics using semiconducting polymers, also known as semiconducting plastic.” Professor Alessio Gagliardi

Since the Green Electronics programme has been recently revised, how do you see it impacting the future of the electronics industry?

Prof Gagliardi: With the increase in our population and the growth of our economy, we must be more careful about how our industrial activities and resource consumption impact the environment. The era of a completely free industrialization is over and we must also realise how technology can affect the environment.

Electronics is one of our most developed and pervasive technologies. In this perspective, green electronics show new ways to make electronic devices that are more attentive to the consequences of the environment. It is clearly something that is going to stay in our future, we cannot avoid this. There are many companies that will be interested in hiring people with a background in green electronics. Just staying in organic semiconductors, there are several  big companies, such as Samsung  or LG, that are investing in TFTs and OLEDs for optoelectronic applications.

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The full interview with Professor Gagliardi was first published in our September 2016 issue of DIGEST. To read the full interview, please click here >>

To find out more about the joint NTU-TUM Master of Science in Green Electronics, please visit our webpage here >>
Application for the Green Electronics programme is now accepted here >>

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