October 30, 2003

Friend Lectures on Polymers

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After gracing the Cornell community with his presence and knowledge during the 1999 Herbert Johnson lecture series, Richard H. Friend, Cavendish Professor of Physics at the University of Cambridge, has returned for a three part lecture series as this year’s Mary Shepard B. Upson visiting professor.

Opening with a few jests in which he noted discrepancies between the American and British cultural and technological atmosphere, Friend’s lecture last night demonstrated how his study of conjugated polymers as semiconductors has put Great Briton at the forefront of the technological field. His work has demonstrated that such materials can become marketable technology incorporated into a wide range of semiconductor devices such as light emitting diodes, transistors and photovoltaic cells.

“[The challenge is] how to process and turn [our knowledge] into real technology,” Friend said.

Friend’s technological innovations have made it possible for organic semiconductors to function as light-emitting diodes capable of full color displays. Friend accounted for such capabilities by the control and confinement of electronic charge and neutral excited states at heterojunctions formed between organic semiconductors.

Such devices would be lighter weight, thinner, more efficient, and allow for more vibrant colors.

“It is interesting to see that it has taken a full decade to develop the full [infrastructure needed] to develop the technology … We hope it will be the starting point for more color displays … That’s where we hope the future will be,” Friend said.

While Friend focused on how his technological advances have evolved, he also alluded to how such technologies may be incorporated into marketable products.

“I think marketing these technological advances in photography and the weatherable photography will be particularly advantageous,” said James L’Heureux ’04.

Although Friend focused on how the field has been pioneered up until this point, he also implied that such innovations would be significant contributors to the future of technology.

“I read his early papers and it’s amazing that you could make such devices well enough to go to market. It gives a nice sense that its an exciting area with a lot left to discover,” said Prof. John Marhon, chemistry.

While Friend has remained committed to his role as a professor and now as the Mary Shepard B. Upson Visiting Professor, he is also highly noted for his role in co-founding Cambridge Display Technology Ltd. where he has worked as chief scientist — in which he applies the technology of his research in order to develop consumer products.

Currently, his company is manufacturing light emitting polymer displays in a number of consumer products. In 2000, Friend went further and co-founded Plastic Logic Ltd. to develop directly-printed polymer transistor circuits.

Archived article by Carrie Tremblatt