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Organic/inorganic hybrids for solution-processable photonic structures

Final Report Summary - OASIS (Organic/inorganic hybrids for solution-processable photonic structures)

With seabirds trapped in multipack drink rings, and mid-ocean islands of indestructible rubbish, the idea that plastics could play a big part in a more sustainable future world might seem far-fetched. However, new smart plastics may yet rescue the reputation of this all-consuming 20th century material. Research into ‘cool plastics’ for cars and buildings could reduce the need for air conditioning and improve energy efficiency. It’s not just environmentalists who will be pleased. New plastics that can guide light may revolutionize how we transmit, amplify, detect and modulate relevant signals. The goals of the OASIS project were to design plastics of desired functions such that they can interact with light as targeted from the outset to realise this vision -- new plastics for light and heat management. To reach these goals OASIS delivered versatile, easy-to-produce materials and, suitable processing strategies were advanced to produce optical devices. ‘Plastic’ mirrors were designed and fabricated that reflect light of specific wavelengths, including infrared light – that is: they reflect heat -- while they are fully transparent for the human eye. Diffraction gratings and hierarchical structures were also produced that feature structural colors (colors not induced by dyes and pigments) and other optical effects such as those found in special butterflies, beetles and bird feathers. OASIS will, thus, without doubt impact on future applications in telecommunication and information technologies, lasing, sensing, security; the knowledge gained may find use beyond that, in hybrid electronics, photocatalysis, or soft metamaterials.

Oasis required a cross-disciplinary activity and, hence, brought together materials chemistry, polymer technology, physics and photonic device engineering. This was achieved through close collaboration through the Centre for Plastic Electronics at Imperial College London between the Departments of Physics and Materials and various academic partners. It also provided an opportunity to develop strong collaborations with SABIC and BASF, who are a major producer of plastics, chemicals and innovative plastics world-wide. Further collaborations, e.g. with coating and printing industries have been started while other applications of the materials developed, in the area of high dielectric break down - and antireflection structures will be investigated in future.