They insulate us from the harm that electricity can cause - at least this is the common understanding of the plastic polymers that coat electrical wires. But since the discovery of conductive polymers (awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2000), a world of new opportunities has arisen. These versatile conductive polymers have the potential to address a range of industrial challenges.
Over the past decade, the main focus of scientists was devoted to improving the electrical features of these novel materials. However conductive polymers possess unique physical and mechanical properties, such as flexibility and tensile strength. In a recent investigation by the Future Industries Institute at the University of South Australia, for the first time, electrical wires have been successfully fabricated using an organic material, known as Poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT).
These wires display mechanical strength comparable to commercially available nylon without need for special additives. At the same time, the electrical conductivity of the wires was maintained, being comparable to that achieved for other carbon-based materials. This new development provides hints to the potential of conductive polymers to enable new technologies such as flexible electronics, artificial muscle fibres or even artificial nerves for the body.
Article reference: Koch, L., Polek, A., Rudd, S. & Evans, D. Macroscopic Electrical Wires from Vapor Deposited Poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene). ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 9, 65–70, doi:10.1021/acsami.6b14727 (2017).