Development of Water-Soluble Semiconducting Polymers for Organic Bioelectronic Devices


Project Description

Current bioelectronic materials used to transduce signals across the biotic/abiotic interface, are mainly either semiconducting silicon or conducting metal contacts, while recent progress in research into organic bioelectronics is limited by standard commercially available materials that are not explicitly designed for bio applications.  Specifically, two emerging areas of research interest are ionic conductivity modulation and facile conducting polymer bio-functionalization.  Organic semiconducting devices employed in organic bioelectronics are potentially advantageous as they have no insulating oxide barrier between the material and biological interface. Due to their ‘soft’ nature and size compatibility, ions are free to penetrate into the bulk of the active material, leading to an exponential increase in signal to noise ratio. Incorporating a source and drain at either side of the semiconductor channel, and gating performed by the electrolyte, creates an organic electrochemical transistor (OECT). Our objective is to design a platform of water-soluble, semiconducting polymer devices specifically for application in the range of emerging bio-organic electronic applications.  One project will involve the synthetic design of dopable conducting, ion transport polymers, with inherent aqueous solubility with appropriate reactive groups for bio compatibility and grafting, or alternatively smart chelating groups which can either induce an optical signal on capture of a target species, or can be electrically modulated to release the species.  Such species include ions and neurotransmitters. A second project will involve the physical characterisation of new bioorganic polymer materials, as well as fabrication, optimisation and testing of simple devices which utilise these exciting new materials.  ​​​​​​
Program - BioScience
Division - Physical Sciences and Engineering
Center Affiliation - KAUST Solar Center
Field of Study - ​Biophysics, Physics, Chemistry, Material Science​

About the

Iain McCulloch

Professor, Chemical Science<br/>Director, KAUST Solar Center

Iain McCulloch
​Professor McCulloch's research interests are in the design and synthesis of semiconducting small molecules and polymers for use in organic electronic devices. This has focused on the understanding and control of microstructure and energy levels in conjugated aromatic semiconducting polymers and the subsequent impact on device properties.