An electronic device is defined as organic when its operation depends on organic semiconductor materials, that is, conducting polymers or small molecules that have carbon as their basic element.
Organic electronics therefore defines a sector of research and technology in which molecular or polymeric organic substances, called organic semiconductors (SO), are used as materials for transporting an electric current in solid state devices.
These materials (SO) can be synthesized in order to control different semi-conductive properties useful for applications such as:
- luminescence (LED)
- transport and charge mobility (transistors)
- the absorption of light (photo-diodes and photovoltaic cells).
They also have the possibility of being deposited on surfaces of different sizes by means of evaporation or printing techniques (such as ink-jet printing or silk-screen printing), both on rigid supports and on flexible supports (this is precisely why to talk about printable and flexible electronics).
Organic electronics is distinguished from microelectronics by several factors:
- its ability to make light devices
- the variety of processed materials
- the type of manufacturing processes
- the adoption of sustainability criteria as a guideline for development.
For this reason, organic electronics and microelectronics are to be considered complementary rather than alternative technologies.
The current use of organic electronic devices is focusing on new multi-sectoral applications and products such as:
- Consumer electronics
- electronic paper (e-paper)
- anti-counterfeiting devices
- prostheses and therapeutic-diagnostic devices
- (opto-) flexible and printable electronics
- thin film sensors.
Ultra-flat or curved televisions, displays for mobile phones and household appliances, photovoltaic elements and environmental illuminators are already on the market.
Organic electronics has stimulated the creation of numerous spin-off companies of universities and of industrial groups, leading to the development of new manufacturing models, realized with the use of low consumption and low environmental impact technologies.