nanoHUB-U: Physics of Electronic Polymers

  1. nanoHUB-U
  2. polymers


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Course Overview

Course Description

Polymer-based electronic devices are emerging in next-generation applications that range from advanced display designs to real-time biomedical monitoring. After ~30 years since the first report of a complete organic electronic device (i.e., the organic light-emitting diode), the polymer electronics community has reached a point where the fundamental knowledge of these unique semiconductors has allowed their utilization in key flexible and stretchable electronic applications that have been, or soon will be, commercialized.

In this course, you will gain an understanding of the basic principles and physics of these materials -- which operate in a manner that is distinctly different than traditional (e.g., silicon-based) semiconductors -- and quickly come up to speed in a paradigm-altering field.

In particular, this course will focus on the nanoscale phenomena regarding the physics of semiconducting polymers. This includes how molecular architecture impacts nanoscale structure (e.g., crystalline texture), optical properties, and electronic properties. You will learn to design new materials, consider structure/processing windows, and develop fundamental concepts regarding the physics of charged species in polymer electronics through participation in this course.

What You will Learn

  • Design of semiconducting polymers
  • How macromolecular design impacts nanostructure
  • Common structure-property relationships of semiconducting polymers


  • 2 semesters of undergraduate chemistry
  • 2 semesters of undergraduate physics
  • 1 semester of undergraduate calculus

Course Outline

Unit 1: Introduction to Polymer Physics

L1.1 Molecular Weights in Polymeric Materials
L1.2 Spatial Extent of Polymer Chains
L1.3 The Freely Rotating Chain Model
L1.4 Defining Parameters in Chain Statistics
L1.5 Persistence Length and Wormlike Chains
L1.6 The Radius of Gyration
L1.7 Introduction to Solution Theory
L1.8 Flory-Huggins Theory
L1.9 Factors That Impact the Interaction Parameter
L1.10 Experiments and the Interaction Parameter

Unit 2: Thermodynamics and Crystallinity in Macromolecules

L2.1 Introduction to Crystalline Polymers
L2.2 Unit Cells in Semicrystalline Polymers
L2.3 Melting Semicrystalline Polymers
L2.4 Thermodynamics of Polymer Crystallization
L2.5 Melting and Thompson-Gibbs Equation
L2.6 Liquid Crystalline Semiconducting Polymers
L2.7 Macromolecular Structure & Liquid Crystallinity
L2.8 Crystallization Kinetics: Nucleation
L2.9 Crystallization Kinetics: Growth
L2.10 Polymer Crystallization and Nanostructure

Unit 3: Nanoscale Structure in Functional Polymers

L3.1 Operating Mechanism of OFETs
L3.2 Crystallinity and Connectivity in OFETs
L3.3 A Model for Polymer-based OFET Transport
L3.4 Operating Mechanisms of OPVs
L3.5 Thermodynamic Mixing Theories and OPVs
L3.6 Domain Purity in Nanostructured OPVs
L3.7 Additives in OPV Active Layers
L3.8 Introduction to Thermoelectric Devices
L3.9 The Promise of Polymer Thermoelectrics
L3.10 Doping in Polymer Thermoelectrics

Unit 4: Controlling Charge Flow through Polymer Nanostructure

L4.1 Order and Alignment in Polythiophene
L4.2 Crystalline Domain Sizes in P3AT OFETs
L4.3 Aligning P3HT Crystalline Domains
L4.4 Polymers with Large Crystalline Domain Sizes
L4.5 Introduction to Block Polymer OPV Devices
L4.6 Assembly of P3HT-based Block Polymers
L4.7 Solving the Fibril Issue in P3AT Block Polymers
L4.8 An Introduction to Radical Polymers
L4.9 Solid-State Transport in Radical Polymers
L4.10 Doping in Radical Polymers

Unit 5: Device Application of Polymer Semiconductors

L5.1 Balancing Electronic & Mechanical Properties
L5.2 Overview of Polymer Mechanics
L5.3 Transient Responses of Polymer Mechanics
L5.4 Intrinsically Stretchable OFETs
L5.5 Stretchable Organic Photovoltaic Devices
L5.6 Organic Electrochemical Transistors (OECTs)
L5.7 Biological Applications of OECTs
L5.8 Introduction to Organic Light-emitting Devices
L5.9 Design Considerations for OLEDs
L5.10 Course Review

Course Resources

  • A free account is required to access some course components.
  • Online quizzes to quickly assess understanding of material after most video lectures.
  • An online forum, hosted by nanoHUB. Students enrolled in the course will be able to interact with one another.


Physics of Electronic Polymers first published on edX, May 2017 and nanoHUB-U, August 2017.



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This self-paced course is available at no cost.

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