The main aim of the course in Organic and Biological Electronics is to furnish students with the fundamentals of optoelectronic devices and technologies based on organic semiconductors. In addition, the course will introduce some of the optoelectronic technologies used in bioengineering for genetic detection and sequencing.
Organic optoelectronic technology is based on new semiconductor materials based on carbon compounds such as organic small molecules or polymers. These materials can be chemically synthesized to tailor a variety of their semiconducting properties making them appealing for applications that require luminescence (LEDs), transport and charge mobility (transistors), the absorption of light (photovoltaic cells), and the modulation of such properties due to external stimuli (eg, photodetectors, gas and pressure sensors). In addition, these materials are mechanically flexible and have also the intrinsic ability to be deposited over large areas on both rigid and flexible substrates by simple evaporation (for small molecules) or by printing techniques (for polymers soluble in organic solvents) including ink jet or screen printing. This is why this field is also referred to as plastic or printed electronics.
After an introduction on organic chemistry and on the quantum description of molecules and organic compounds and their optical transitions (absorption, fluorescence and phosphorescence), the course will expound the operation of organic semiconductor optoelectronic devices, in particular Organic (or Polymer) Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs, PLEDs), Organic Thin Film Transistors (OTFTs), Organic Solar Cells (OSCs), Dye Solar Cells (DSC), organic photodetectors, sensors and piezoelectric devices. We will then study the design and the manufacturing techniques utilized in developing the applications based on these devices and how these applications operate. The course will illustrate Flat Panel OLED Displays (having substantial market today as screens of mobile phones and MP3 players), electronic paper (E-Paper - trough the Plastic Logic Ltd case study), RFID chips, gas or pressure sensors, photodetector arrays and photovoltaic modules. Part of the course will be devoted to experiments in the laboratory where we will investigate experimental methods for the characterization of organic materials (morphological, optical and electrical), of devices and applications (OLED displays, DSCs and polymer Solar Cells). In addition, the student will learn to fabricate dye solar cells and characterize them under a solar simulator to extract the fundamental parameters (eg, conversion efficiency) or under monochromatic light to study the external quantum efficiency (IPCE) of the device.
Part of the course will focus on the optoelectronic devices and systems for gene expression detection and sequencing. After a brief introduction on the basic concepts of molecular biology, biotechnology and biopharming the course will briefly cover the Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) which is used as a marker or detector for genetic or metabolic processes in cells or organisms. The course then will show how gene chip arrays are designed, constructed and utilized using photolithographic (through the Affymetrix case study) or ink jet printing techniques. A case study on cystic fibrosis will illustrate an example of the utilization and importance of these chips. The course will also investigate the phenomenon of bioluminescence, and how natural processes (such as that of the firefly) have been used to design and construct among the most powerful systems today for DNA sequencing (such as those based on pyrosequencing).
Organic (also known as "printed" or "plastic") electronics is experiencing major international development efforts and has been identified by the European Community as very important field to invest in because Europe is already in the vanguard in this field. Some applications are already massively on the market (such as OLEDs in mobile phone displays) and others starting in niche markets and/or still under development in various industrial pilot or manufacturing lines in Europe (E-Paper, DSC, OSCs). The part of the course covering optoelectronic devices for the detection of genes also represents a strongly expanding field with many future developments (e.g. the hardware for bio-informatics). This course will give students the tools required to understand how the devices work and how the applications are designed and operate in both of these two sectors that are experiencing strong growth worldwide.