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German team makes printed perovskite LEDs

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Innovative technique could lead towards a new process for electronics manufacturing, say HZB scientists

Hybrid perovskite materials could lead to simplification of electronics manufacturing according to Emil List-Kratochvil, head of a Joint Research Group at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB and) Humboldt-Universität, Germany.

"They can be used to manufacture all kinds of microelectronic components by modifying their composition", says List-Kratochvil. What's more, processing perovskite crystals is comparatively simple. "They can be produced from a liquid solution, so you can build the desired component one layer at a time directly on the substrate".

Scientists at HZB have already shown that solar cells can be printed from a solution of semiconductor compounds. Now, the joint team of HZB and HU Berlin has succeeded in producing functional LEDs in this manner. The research group used a metal halide perovskite for this purpose. This is a material that promises particularly high efficiency in generating light - but on the other hand is difficult to process.

"Until now, it has not been possible to produce these kinds of semiconductor layers with sufficient quality from a liquid solution", says List-Kratochvil. For example, LEDs could be printed just from organic semiconductors, but these provide only modest luminosity.

"The challenge was how to cause the salt-like precursor that we printed onto the substrate to crystallise quickly and evenly by using some sort of an attractant or catalyst", he says.

The team chose a seed crystal for this purpose: a salt crystal that attaches itself to the substrate and triggers formation of a gridwork for the subsequent perovskite layers.

Significantly better optical and electronic characteristics

In this way, the researchers created printed LEDs that possess far higher luminosity and considerably better electrical properties than could be previously achieved using additive manufacturing processes. But for List-Kratochvil, this success is only an intermediate step on the road to future micro- and optoelectronics that he believes will be based exclusively on hybrid perovskite semiconductors.

"The advantages offered by a single universally applicable class of materials and a single cost-effective and simple process for manufacturing any kind of component are striking", says the scientist. He is therefore planning to eventually manufacture all important electronic components this way in the laboratories of HZB and HU Berlin.

List-Kratochvil is Professor of Hybrid Devices at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and head of a Joint Lab founded in 2018 that is operated by HU together with HZB. In addition, a team jointly headed by List-Kratochvil and HZB scientist Dr. Eva Unger is working in the Helmholtz Innovation Lab HySPRINT on the development of coating and printing processes - also known in technical jargon as "additive manufacturing" - for hybrid perovskites. These are crystals possessing a perovskite structure that contain both inorganic and organic components.

'Finally, inkjet-printed metal-halide perovskite LEDs - utilising seed-crystal templating of salty PEDOT:PSS' by Felix Hermerschmidt et al; Materials Horizons, the journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

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