The ANU team said the invention also opened the door to a new generation of high-performance electronic devices made with organic materials that would be biodegradable or that could be easily recycled, meaning a substantially reduction of e-waste.
The university noted that the huge volumes of e-waste generated by discarded electronic devices around the world was causing irreversible damage to the environment, and Australia produced 200,000 tonnes of e-waste every year – with only 4% recycled.
Lead senior researcher Associate Professor Larry Lu said the invention was a major breakthrough.
The organic component has the thickness of just one atom — made from just carbon and hydrogen — and forms part of the semiconductor that the ANU team developed.
The inorganic component has the thickness of around two atoms, and the hybrid structure can convert electricity into light efficiently for displays on mobile phones, televisions and other electronic devices.
PhD researcher Ankur Sharma from the ANU Research School of Engineering, who recently won the ANU 3-Minute Thesis competition, said experiments demonstrated the performance of their semiconductor would be more efficient than conventional semiconductors made with inorganic materials such as silicon.
“We have the potential with this semiconductor to make mobile phones as powerful as today’s supercomputers,” Sharma said.
“The light emission from our semiconducting structure is very sharp, so it can be used for high-resolution displays and, since the materials are ultra-thin, they have the flexibility to be made into bendable screens and mobile phones in the near future.”
The team grew the organic semiconductor component molecule by molecule, in a similar way to 3D printing, in a process called chemical vapour deposition.
“We characterised the opto-electronic and electrical properties of our invention to confirm the tremendous potential of it to be used as a future semiconductor component,” Lu said.
“We are working on growing our semiconductor component on a large scale, so it can be commercialised in collaboration with prospective industry partners.”