Andrew Rinzler

Andrew Rinzler

Head of the CLAS

Associate Professor of Physics Andrew Rinzler has been awarded a patent for “Transparent Electrodes from Single Wall Carbon Nanotubes.” In 2001, while much of the nanoscale science community working with carbon nanotubes was focused on their applications as individual objects, Rinzler realized the material could provide important opportunities as a bulk material, while still taking advantage of the unique properties of its nanoscale constituents.

Rinzler made a proposal to the National Science Foundation for a new type of optical modulator based on a thin, optically transparent layer of carbon nanotubes, that was to be electrically contacted by an array of closely spaced, parallel gold electrodes. Since bulk carbon nanotubes contain both metallic and semiconducting nanotubes, Rinzler realized that a continuous film of them would be a good electrical conductor obviating the need for the gold electrode array.

Producing a film of nanotubes that would be thin enough to be transparent, optically homogeneous and still highly conducting proved to be quite a challenge. Rinzler’s enabling ideas for a method that worked the first time it was tried by his graduate student Zhihing Chen came in 2002, shortly before the NSF funding came through. Recognizing that transparent electrical conductors are pervasive in modern electro-optics, including the need for such layers in present and upcoming computer/TV display technologies, Rinzler filed a disclosure with the Office of Technology Licensing, which filed for a provisional patent application in 2002, converting to a utility patent a year later.

Rinzler’s group further developed the films as well as the optical modulator that spawned them—and with characterization help from UF colleagues David Tanner, Physics; Art Hebard, Physics; and John Reynolds, Chemistry—published a paper in Science in 2004. That same year, in another demonstration of the utility of the films, Rinzler and materials science colleagues Steve Pearton and Fan Ren used them as the hole (positive electrical charge) injection electrode in gallium nitride light emitting diodes, with the light emitted through the films. This work was published in Nano Letters.

Today, with seven additional patents filed on various elaborations of the technology, the Rinzler and Reynolds groups have a well-funded program by the licensee of the patent to exploit the transparent conducting nanotube films in polymer based light emitting diodes, photovoltaics (solar cells) and electrochromic displays. Most recently, in another unrelated but also industrially funded program, the Rinzler group has pushed the technology to develop a new architecture thin film transistor.

Credits

Writer

Buffy Lockette

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