Indium tin oxide (ITO) is the main conductive material currently used in electronics, but as a finite resource is becoming increasingly expensive. A research team at the University of Exeter, Devon, U.K., found a viable alternative to ITO, GraphExeter, a transparent, lightweight and flexible material that could revolutionize wearable electronics and increase efficiency of solar panels by as much as 30 percent. Graphene is the thinnest substance capable of conducting electricity, but its sheet resistance limits its conductivity.
The Exeter team sandwiched molecules of ferric chloride between two layers of graphene to produce a material that conducts electricity and retains its transparency and strength. GraphExeter, now being developed in a spray-on formula, “outperforms any other carbon-based transparent conductor used in electronics and could be used for a range of applications, from solar panels to ‘smart’ tee shirts,” said Dr. Monica Craciun, lead engineer for the research team.