Futuristic simulation of OLED technology.

She had done it! Dr. Brittnee Veldman has managed to incorporate LEGOs into her new research project.

With a blend of materials chemistry, physics, and electrical engineering, Dr. Veldman is working on a new way to synthesize high-dielectric, nano-composite materials for use in flexible transistors. What does that string of complex science terms mean? Well, Dr. Veldman is trying to develop a way to make anything with a LED screen, from televisions to computer screens and even cell phones, as flexible as what we observe in projection screen material. Eventually, televisions will be shoved into poster tubes and hung on the walls with thumbtacks and desktop monitors will be rolled open when in use!

Specifically, Dr. Veldman is working towards organic electronics over our traditional inorganic electronics we encounter today because these organic electronics have synthetic diversity, they are light weight, flexible, inexpensive, and can be made into very large screens as opposed to the breakable and heavy metal-based ones.

Student-made Spin Coater
In order to produce these flexible organic LED (OLED) screens, there needs to be an organic field-effect transistor (OFET) to handle the malleability of these displays. A field-effect transistor is an electrical switch that uses electric fields to control the shape and conductivity of a channel in electronics. An OFET is a field-effect transistor that is made from organic materials. In order for these OFET’s to work, they need insulators to keep the current in the channel and these insulators have to be compatible with the OFETs.

Ideally, an OFET compatible insulator would have high capacitance (ability to keep the electrical charge within the system), be inexpensive as well as simple in production, and have consistent morphology and flexibility. The current materials used as insulators are successful in all but one of those requirements. Dr. Veldman is currently working, yes on the CSUCI campus, to produce an insulator that rises above all others.

By an intricate process of chemical reactions, that I am not at liberty to release, and trust in the laws of chemistry and physics, Dr. Veldman is hoping to synthesize a composite insulator that has a high capacitance, is easy to produce, and is scalable to large areas.

Aside from generating a large piece of the puzzle that stands between me and my television that can be rolled up for transport, Dr. Veldman is further working towards developing the mechanical instruments used in her experiments herself, with assistance from several CSUCI students, of course.

Student-made Dip Coater
There are two possible ways to apply this new insulator to the substrate used in OFETs: spin and dip coating. Spin coating is the process of putting a small amount of the insulator onto a disc and spinning that disc at high speeds to obtain a desired thickness and surface area of the insulator, this works almost like those tie-dye splatter paint spinner things used in the 90’s or a pottery wheel used in ceramics (depending on when you were born, one metaphor will make more sense than the other). Dip coating is when a sheet is dipped or dragged through the insulation substance in order to coat the sheet. THIS IS WHERE THE LEGOS COME IN! Dr. Veldman is utilizing LEGO Mindstorms kits to produce the dip coater to be used in her research project. I just hope no one steps on the LEGO blocks!

Dr. Veldman is working to better the technology we interact with in our every day routines, saving money by producing her own techniques, and I cannot wait until I am able to drop my iPhone without worrying about the glass shattering.