Low-cost plastic memories from a commodity polymer

20 March 2013

Scientists from the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials of the University of Groningen and the German Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research have discovered a way to make a plastic memory from a commodity polymer. The polymer they used is PVDF – polyvinylidene fluoride. This low-cost material is often used for membrane filters and packaging foils.
The existence of delta-PVDF was predicted in the 1980s, but had never experimentally been proven in a thin film. Plastic memories already exist, but they are made of a specialty copolymer of PVDF with trifluoroethylene. That material is difficult to make, very expensive, and it also loses its ferroelectric properties at temperatures above 80 degrees Celsius. When that happens you lose all stored data. PVDF, on the other hand, costs next to nothing and the films preserve the stored information up to temperatures of about 170 degrees Celsius. As a result, delta-PVDF is the ideal candidate for data storage in plastic electronics.
Plastic electronics has developed rapidly and is now on the verge of commercialization, promising new applications from smart food packaging that keeps track of the expiration date, to wearable health monitors (News Release University of Groningen, 18 March 2013).