Research Highlights

Mechanical strains enhance the properties of semiconductors

Published online 17 February 2016

Effects of heat-induced mechanical strains on semiconductors can be exploited to make smarter electronic devices.

Biplab Das

In a first, materials scientists have discovered a link between heat-induced mechanical strains and electronic disorders in rubrene crystals, a type of organic semiconductor1

Uncovering the connection between such strains and electronic disorders is potentially useful for developing better semiconducting materials, according to the scientists, including Gjergji Sini from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia. 

To probe the link between strains and electronic disorders in the crystals, the researchers placed them on polymer and silicon substrates. Upon increasing the heat from room temperature to 75 °C, the crystals on the polymer experienced tensile strain, whereas the crystals on the silicon were exposed to compressive strain. 

Sophisticated imaging techniques revealed that the crystals on the polymer expanded more than the crystals on the silicon. The scientists also measured how the strains changed the crystals’ work function to reveal their electronic states. It turned out this function increased with tensile strain and decreased with compressive strain. 

“Understanding the effects of microstrain in organic semiconductors could potentially help to improve the performance of flexible electronic devices,” says principal investigator C. Daniel Frisbie from the University of Minnesota, US.


  1. Wu, Y. et al. Strain effects on the work function of an organic semiconductor. Nature Commun. 7, 10270 (2016).