Image: John Zich/University of Chicago/Disclosure
Researchers at the University of Chicago, USA, have discovered a new material that looks like plastic, but conducts electricity like metals. The discovery is surprising because it goes against every rule we know about electricity.
In article published in the magazine nature on Wednesday (26), scientists show that the material takes energy efficiently despite having a disordered structure of molecules. The expectation is to use it as a new element for electronic technology.
To this day, organic metals such as aluminum and copper are considered the main conductors. In common, they all have straight, compact rows of atoms or molecules. In practice, electrons flow easily in these rows like cars on a highway.
But that is not what happens with this new material, not yet named by the researchers. ÇAs the molecules are disordered, the researchers hypothesize that it works in layers, almost like “lasagna sheets”.
Even if the sheets slide sideways, the electrons can still move horizontally or vertically – as long as the pieces touch each other at some point. The material does this with ease and strength, in addition to ensuring stability in the face of adverse weather and surface conditions, for example.
“It’s almost like a conductive putty”, said John Anderson, a professor of chemistry at the University of Chicago and co-author of the study. “You can squeeze it in place and it conducts electricity anyway.”
Possible revolution ahead
The discovery of the materialpave the way for a real revolution in the world of electrical conductors. The advantage, compared to metals, is that the newly discovered material is easier to mold and more robust in everyday conditions.
“Essentially, [a descoberta] suggests new possibilities for an extremely important technological group of materials,” said Jiaze Xie of Princeton University, co-author of the study.
Now, researchers are exploring different shapes and functions the material can have. “We think we can make it 2D or 3D, porous and even months to introduce other functions,” Xie said.