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In polysulfur nitride was discovered to be superconducting at low temperatures, and this discovery paved the way for intensive research in the field of conductive polymers [3]. One of the most well-studied conducting polymers, polyaniline , has found its way into various applications in some of the most research-heavy industries of recent times.


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Polyaniline is, for instance, used as a sensor in the detection of ammonia. This is an area subject to a lot of research regarding how to improve the environmental stability and repeatability of the sensors by addition of different fillers [5]. Ultimately, the possibility of having organic materials with the conductive properties of non-organic materials along with the intrinsic polymeric features of mechanical flexibility and relatively low-cost production gives rise to endless opportunities [6].

Although the mechanism behind the conductivity of polymers still is not fully understood by engineers and scientists, some structural properties are known to influence the conductivity of said polymers. One common trait of all the conductive polymers is that they are conjugated polymers. Conjugated polymers are a class of organic polymers, which are intrinsically semiconducting and can, in some cases, exhibit quasi-metallic properties with regards to conductivity [6].

For us to fully understand the physics behind the conductivity of this class of polymer, we must look at the molecular structure of a conjugated polymer. Let us take a closer look at the molecular structure of polyaniline. Figure 2 gives a schematic of the molecular structure of different oxidation states of polyaniline.

Plastics Assembly: Electrically Conductive Polymers

In terms of the conductivity of the polymer, we can observe the interchanging single and double bond occurring throughout the backbone of the polymer. This is also known as the conjugated backbone , but what does it really mean when a polymer is conjugated? Conjugation in terms of linguistics refers to a link between two separate things. Essentially what is obtained in a conjugated backbone of a polymer is an overlapping of p-orbitals , which allows for the delocalisation of electrons along those orbitals.

The delocalised electrons thus may act as charge carriers as they are free to move throughout the whole system. Electron delocalisation is also the mechanism responsible for the electrical conductivity of metals. To induce or enhance the electrical conductivity of the conjugated polymers, a process known as doping is carried out. The doping process is essentially like that of silicon semiconductors, in which you can have a p-doping oxidation, or addition of a delocalised electron hole and n-doping reduction, or addition of a delocalised electron.

Nano tuned conducting polymer for plastic solar cell

Following the doping process, the electrons are now free to move around, resulting in an electrical current as they pass along the conjugated polymer backbone. The medical industry is one of the industries that would be revolutionised by the introduction of conductive polymers, specifically with regards to tissue engineering and biosensors.

In terms of tissue engineering, 3D scaffolds utilising conductive polymers can be obtained by means of electrospinning. The use of conductive polymers is of special interest due to them being a suitable biocompatible matrix for biomolecules. One of the major companies which currently has a patent filed for a biodegradable electrically conductive polymer for tissue engineering is Polymer Chemistry innovations Inc.

The conductive polymer is believed to also be applicable in areas such as wound healing, bone repair and spinal cord regeneration [7]. An interesting application of conductive polymer in the medical industry is the development of artificial muscles by utilising their response to an electrical field. Electroactive polymers EAP are polymers which observe dimensional changes in response to electrical stimuli.

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View on ScienceDirect. Authors: Larry Rupprecht.


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Editors: Larry Rupprecht. Hardcover ISBN: Imprint: William Andrew.

Conducting polymer substrates for plastic liquid crystal display - Semantic Scholar

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