Doctoral Training Centre in Science and Application of Plastic Electronic Materials

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Dept of Physics

Abstract

Plastic electronics (PE) refers to the science and engineering of molecular electronic materials (MEMs), notably conjugated polymers, and their applications to areas such as displays, lighting, flexible electronics, solar energy conversion, sensing, and healthcare. The driving force behind PE is the fact that MEMs can be processed from solution, opening up device manufacture schemes using printing/coating processes similar to those used for conventional plastics. Compared to current inorganic-based technologies, this could lead to large reductions in cost and substantial energy savings when applied to the manufacture of solar cells or energy efficient plastic lighting products.Nationally and globally, markets for the first PE products (e.g. OLED displays) are expanding rapidly while large new markets emerge, in both developed and developing countries. Hence, exceptionally high demand exists globally for skilled scientists and engineers at all stages: in materials supply, device design, engineering and manufacture, and printing/coating equipment production.The world-leading, agenda-setting UK academic PE research, much of it sponsored by EPSRC, offers enormous potential for development and growth of this UK technology sector. Although this potential is recognised by UK government and industry, growth is severely limited by the shortage of trained scientists and engineers capable of carrying ideas forward to application. This is confirmed by industry experts who argue that a comprehensive training programme is essential to deliver the workforce of scientists and engineers needed to create a sustainable UK PE Industry.The proposed DTC addresses this need providing the first post-graduate programme focussed on the training of physical science graduates in PE science and technology. The DTC brings together two leading academic teams in the PE area: the ICL groups, with expertise in the physics, chemistry and application of MEMs, and the polymer technologists at QMUL. This compact, London-based consortium encompasses all the disciplines relevant to PE, including materials physics, optoelectronics, physical chemistry, device engineering and modelling, design, synthesis and processing of MEMs as well as relevant industrial experience. Both teams have been strengthened recently, both through new appointments and by expanded or refurbished laboratory space. This investment reflects the strategic intent of ICL and QMUL to foster the PE research area.The proposal aims to devlop an integrated postgraduate training programme, consisting of a one-year M.Res. degree with taught courses on all aspects of MEMs, and a formative research project, followed by a three-year PhD project. Training will continue throughout the four years via short courses in advanced topics, practical training (processing/characterisation techniques), and professional skills training (both generic and discipline specific). Ten students per annum will be supported by the DTC. An additional ten will be supported by project studentships, industrial and other sources to create a critical student mass leading to an output of 100 trained scientists after 8 years. A large fraction of the DTC's interdisciplinary projects will have industrial input, either through placement with partners, through co-supervision or through access to facilities offered by industrial partners. An open call for project proposals will enable new academic and industrial members to interact with the DTC, fostering and enlarging cross-disciplinary collaborations, and enable response of the DTC's research portfolio to the developing scientific and industrial scene.

Publications

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