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Conducting Polymers and their Applications

Article in Current Physical Chemistry May 2012
DOI: 10.4028/




3 authors, including:
Murat Ates

A. Sezai Sarac

University of California, Los Angeles, United

Istanbul Technical University





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Available from: Murat Ates

Retrieved on: 12 October 2016


Current Physical Chemistry, 2012, 2, 224-240

Conducting Polymers and their Applications

Murat Atesa,*, Tolga Karazehir a and A. Sezai Saracb

Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Namik Kemal University, Degirmenalti Campus, 59030,
Tekirdag, Turkey; bDepartment of Chemistry, Istanbul Technical University, Polymer Science and Technology, Maslak,
34469, Istanbul, Turkey
Abstract: This review article focuses on conducting polymers and their applications. Conducting polymers (CPs) are an
exciting new class of electronic materials, which have attracted an increasing interest since their discovery in 1977. They
have many advantages, as compared to the non-conducting polymers, which is primarily due to their electronic and optic
properties. Also, they have been used in artificial muscles, fabrication of electronic device, solar energy conversion,
rechargeable batteries, and sensors. This study comprises two main parts of investigation. The first focuses conducting
polymers (polythiophene, polyparaphenylene vinylene, polycarbazole, polyaniline, and polypyrrole). The second regards
their applications, such as Supercapacitors, Light emitting diodes (LEDs), Solar cells, Field effect transistor (FET), and
Biosensors. Both parts have been concluded and summarized with recent reviewed 233 references.

Keywords: Biosensor, Conducting polymer, Field Effect Transistor, Light Emitting Diode, Solar Cell, Supercapacitor.
Since the discovery of the conducting polymers in the
late 1970s, many scientists have been working on finding
applications for the newly discovered conducting polymers,
such as thin film transistors [1], polymer light emitting
diodes (LEDs) [2], corrosion resistance [3], electromagnetic
shielding [4], sensor technology [5], molecular electronics
[6], supercapacitors [7], and electrochromic devices [8]. By
judiciously choising the molecule combinations, it is
possible to prepare multifunctional molecular structures that
open possibilities for almost any desired applications.
1.1. Poly(thiophene)
Polythiophene has received great scientific attention in
the last twenty years. This fact has been made possible by its
interesting properties, such as good environmental and
thermal stability, as well as by its wide application
perspectives [9]. Numerous polyalkyl derivatives of
thiophene have been synthesized so far by chemical and
electrochemical approaches, resulting in conducting
polymers with better solubility and higher capacitor
behaviors [10].
Conducting polymers have attracted attention to be used
as electrochromic materials due to their inexpensive and
potentially processable nature [11-13]. Thiophene-based
polymers have received significant interest for their electrical
properties, environmental stabilities, and a number of
practical applications. For instance, these materials have
been used as charge dissipation coatings in electron-beam
lithography [14] and as an active semiconducting material in
organic thin-film transistors [15]. Recently, Shi and coworkers reported the preparation of polythiophene films
*Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Chemistry,
Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Namik Kemal University, Degirmenalti
Campus, 59030, Tekirdag, Turkey; Tel: +90 282 2933866 (236);
Fax: +90 282 2934149; E-mail:
1877-94/12 $58.00+.00

from a boron trifluoride-diethyl ether solution with thiophene

monomer by electrochemical means so that the films possess
tensile strength, are tougher and mechanically more durable
than aluminum [16]. Thiophene based polymers can also be
used as potential materials for electrochromic devices [17].
An electrochromic material possesses ability to reversibly
change color by altering its redox state. For instance, poly(3methylthiophene) (poly(3MTh)) is known to be blue in
the oxidized state and red in the reduced state. Panero et al.
have investigated the electrochromic devices by using
poly(3MTh) coated indium tin oxide (ITO) glass electrodes,
and thus have obtained an optical contrast between the
reduced and oxidized states of about 30 % [18].
1.2. Poly(para-phenylene Vinylene)
Poly(para-phenylene vinylene) (PPV) is a conducting
polymer of the rigid-rod polymer family with high levels of
crystallinity. PPV is an important polymer in many
electronic applications, such as LEDs and photovoltaic
devices [19], which is due to the small optical band gap and
its bright yellow fluorescence. In addition, it can be easily
doped to form electrically conductive materials. Therefore,
its electronic and physical properties can be changed by the
inclusion of functional groups. It is mostly synthesized via
chemical routes, where a precursor is converted to PPV by
thermal elimination of leaving group. The deposition of PPV
onto or inside polysilicon (PSi) could lead to the
development of new functional hybrid devices. In literature,
PPV and poly(2,5-dimethyl-para-phenylene vinylene) were
prepared via the formation of a double bond by thermal
elimination of an octylsulfinyl side group at 200 0C under
vacuum [20]. Alves et al. have studied theoretical
approaches of PPV and poly(p-phenylene) (PPP) [21]. PPVbased devices have drawbacks due to photodegradation.
However, PPV and its derivatives find frequent application
in research cells [22].

2012 Bentham Science Publishers

Conducting Polymers and their Applications

1.3. Poly(Carbazole)
Carbazole is a heterocyclic organic compound with
active sides at 3 and 6 positions. The anodic polymerization
of carbazole [23], especially N-vinylcarbazole [24, 25], has
been considered in relation to the polymer film electrodes.
The interest in polycarbazoles is also stimulated by their
possible applications in electrochromic display devices [26]
and batteries [27]. Sarac et al. have synthesized and
polymerized some ter-arenes based on N-ethylcarbazole
and thiophene [28]. Polyvinylcarbazole (PVCz) electroluminescence (EL) devices with better performance and
modified configuration were also reported [29, 30].
Electrocopolymerization of carbazole (Cz) with pTolylsulfonyl pyrrole (pTsp) was studied concerning two
different types of electrodes, namely CFMEs and platinum
(Pt) button electrodes. Modified electrodes on the CFMEs
are more suitable to decrease the electrochemical potential
values than the Pt button electrodes [31].
1.4. Polyaniline
The oxidized and reduced states of PANI films, including
the effects of the dopants and electrolytes, have been
extensively studied [32]. Sarac et al. [33] have studied
aniline (ANI), which has been electropolymerised by the CV
method on three different electrodes: Pt, glassy carbon (GC),
and CFME in acid aqueous solution (0.5 M H2SO4).
Bhattachrya et al. [34] have investigated PANI using gas
sensors and corrosion protective coatings. The applicability
of PANI as an ion-exchange resin and conducting polymer
has attracted considerable scientific interest in recent decades
due to its good combination of properties, such as diverse
structure, thermal and radiation stability, low cost, ease of
synthesis, and conducting properties. This resulted in its
application to different fields, such as micro-electronics,
corrosion protection, sensors and electrodes for batteries
1.5. Polypyrrole
Among the numerous conducting polymers, polypyrrole
(PPy) is by far the most extensively studied, which is due to
its ease of synthesis, good redox properties [36], stability in
the oxidized form, ability to give high electrical conductivity
[37, 38], water solubility, commercial availability, and useful
electrical and optical properties [39, 40]. As a result of
its good intrinsic properties, polypyrrole has proven to
be promising for several applications, such as batteries,
supercapacitors, electrochemical biosensors, conductive
textiles and fabrics, mechanical actuators, EMI shielding,
antistatic coatings and drug delivery systems [41]. The
intrinsic properties of PPy are highly dependent on electropolymerization conditions. High surface area electrodes with
small dimensions has been realized in several applications,
such as higher performance and miniaturization of electrochemical devices [42].
Brajter-Toth and co-workers have proposed overoxidized polypyrrole films as a substitute for Nafion films
[43-45]. In its oxidized form, polypyrrole is a positively
charged conducting polymer [46]. Upon over-oxidation, it
loses its conductivity and charge [47]. The characterization

Current Physical Chemistry, 2012, Vol. 2, No. 3


of these films by X-Ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS)

[48, 49] and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR)
[50] reveals the over-oxidation results in addition of
carbonyl and carboxylic groups.
2.1. Supercapacitors
Supercapacitors have been focused on the development
of new modified electrode materials with improved
performance. The electrode materials for supercapacitors
have been classified into three categories: transition metal
oxides, high-surface carbons, and conducting polymers
[51, 52].
The development of hybrid electric vehicles and the fastgrowing market of the portable electronic devices have
prompted an increasing and urgent demand for environment
friendly high-power energy resources. Supercapacitors are
also called electrochemical capacitors or ultracapacitors.
Because of their pulse power supply, long cycle life, simple
principle, and high dynamic of charge propagation, they
have attracted much interest [53, 54]. In order to form fast
charging energy-storage devices of intermediate specific
energy, they are designed to fill the gap between batteries
and capacitors. They have a high market potential regarding
both the hybrid electric vehicles and the pure electric
vehicles as to improve the regenerative braking and provide
larger acceleration. The capacitances are delivered in mF and
F quantities [55]. Capacitors have been developed to give
hundreds to thousands of Farads. These are usually known
as supercapacitors, or ultracapacitors, and are initially
constructed from carbons of high surface area [56, 57].
Supercapacitor device derives its performance from the socalled double-layer capacitance and is therefore often
referred to as an electrochemical double-layer capacitor
(EDLC). The capacitance in these devices is stored as a build
up of charge in the EDLC in the solution interface close
to the surface of the carbon to balance the charge in the
carbon material [58]. Another type of supercapacitor
(pseudocapacitor) derives its capacitance from the storage
of charge in the bulk of a redox material in response to
a redox reaction. This fast redox reaction [59, 60] acts
like capacitance (pseudocapacitance). A pseudo-capacitor
typically stores a greater amount of capacitance per gram
than an EDLC, as the bulk of the material reacts. An
example of a pseudo-capacitive material is a conducting
polymer (CP).
Carbon-based materials, such as activated carbons (ACs),
and carbon nanotubes (CNTs), are the most widely used
electrodes, due to desirable physical and chemical properties.
These properties include low cost, variety of form (powders,
fibers, aerogels, composites, sheets, monoliths, tubes, etc.),
ease of processability, relatively inert electrochemistry,
controllable porosity and electrocatalytic active sites for a
variety of redox reactions [61].
The development of the carbon based materials aimed
to reach desired energy target implies further surface
functionalization. It is claimed that carbon composites
are potentially of interest to combine a battery with a
supercapacitor in one carbon-based system, or to blend

226 Current Physical Chemistry, 2012, Vol. 2, No. 3

hydrogen storage with fuel-cell functions in one integrated

system. Indeed, carbon materials are also extensively studied
in the domains regarding negative electrode materials in
lithium ion batteries, supercapacitors, fuel cells, sensors, etc.
However, in order to meet the demand in many modern-day
applications, new synthetic approaches are investigated to
produce porous carbon materials with suitable properties
[62]. Porous carbon materials can be obtained in two
different ways. Both of them are based on template
synthesis, using either a hard template or a soft template. The
carbonization defined as the thermal conversion of organic
materials to carbon occurs in a confined space, usually after
the removal of silica scaffolding [63].

Ates et al.

produced two types of supercapacitor has been redox type

(symmetric type), based on two LiPF6 doped polyaniline
(PANI-LiPF6) electrodes, and hybrid type (asymmetric type),
based on PANI-LiPF6 and active carbon electrodes. The
hybrid type of supercapacitor was shown to have better
electrochemical performance than that the redox type in both
0-1 and 0-3 V ranges (Fig. 1). The specific capacitance of the
hybrid type is also larger than that of the redox type in both
ranges. The active carbon electrode functions to increase the
voltage of the supercapacitor, and the polymer electrode
maintains the redox reaction for a relatively long time.

Because of the fast sorption and desorption of ions, the

carbon based supercapacitors have high power capabilities,
but a low specific energy. Conducting polymers should
improve the device. They undergo a redox reaction to store
charge in the bulk of the material and thereby increase the
energy stored while reducing self-discharge. One significant
drawback of these materials is the relatively low power or
lower rate of charge-discharge, due to the slow diffusion of
ions within the bulk of the electrode. Nevertheless, it is still
proposed that CPs can fill the gap between batteries and
double-layer supercapacitors, since these electrodes have
better kinetics than nearly all inorganic battery electrode
materials which are pseudo-capacitive materials [64].
The conductive polymer, used as modified membrane, is
coated to the well conductive material (such as active
carbon) to reduce resistance, combined as inorganic-organic
hybrid electrode material, which fully utilizes its respective
advantages [65, 66]. Scientists have studied PPy/AC
composite electrodes [67]. Using AC as a substrate material
is being expected to the instabilities, since adhesions and
charge transfer conductivities between the PPy and substrate
can be improved. In addition, an enhancement of the specific
capacitance of PPy is being expected due to an enlarged
active surface area of PPy layer deposited on the surface of
AC in the composite electrode. Kim et al. [68] synthesized
via an in situ chemical polymerization the PPy/vapor grown
carbon fibers/AC composites with thickness of 5 - 10 nm.
Lota et al. [69] report a composite material prepared
from a homogenous mixture of polymer poly(3,4ethylenedioxythiophene; PEDOT) and CNTs, or by using
chemical or electrochemical polymerization of EDOT
directly on CNTs. The optimal proportions of the composite
are CNTs and PEDOT. The electrochemical method gives
better capacitance results, and such a material has a good
cycling performance with a high stability in all the
electrolytes. Another important advantage of this composite
is the high density of PEDOT, its significant volumetric
energy. Due to the open mesoporous network of nanotubes,
the easily accessible electrode/electrolyte interface allows
quick charge propagation in the composite material and an
efficient reversible storage of energy in PEDOT during
subsequent charging/discharging cycles [70].
Polyaniline (PANI) is the most attractive p-dopable
polymer due to its stability, controllable electrical
conductivity, and easy processability. PANI prepared by
electrochemical methods has been used as an electrode
material for redox supercapacitors [71-73]. Ryu et al. [74]

Fig. (1). Schematic structure of hybrid-type supercapacitor.

Reprinted with permission from Ref (74). Ryu K.S., Lee Y., Han KS., Park Y.J., Kang M.G., Park N-G., Chang S.H., Solid State
Ionics, 2004, 175, 765768. Copyrigth@Elsevier.

Baibarac et al. [75] have studied electrochemical

polymerization of N-vinyl carbazole (N-VCz) on carbon
nanotube (CN) films via cyclic voltammetry. Cyclic
voltammograms recorded on a blank Pt electrode have been
compared to those obtained when single or multi-walled CN
films are deposited on the Pt electrode.
Graphene sheet (GS), one-atom-thick two-dimensional
graphite of sp2-bonded carbon, exhibits good conductivity,
mechanical stiffness, good flexibility, and high surface area
(2630 m2g-1) [76, 77]. At present, GS based materials have
attracted increasing attention due to their potential
applications in many technological fields, such as liquid
crystal devices, nanoelectronics, supercapacitors and field
emitters, and others etc. [78, 79]. Especially, graphene-based
supercapacitors or ultracapacitors have been shown to
deliver higher specific capacitance than other carbon
materials. Wu and co-workers have fabricated a multilayered
graphene as supercapacitor material in aqueous and organic
electrolytes [80]. Rao et al. reported similar results of the
graphene material as the electrochemical supercapacitors
[81]. Graphene-based high supercapacitor performance
depends on its intrinsic structure. In other words, single or
few layered GS with less agglomeration can provide higher
effective surface area. It is necessary to enhance the
capacitance of the graphene-based electrode material and to
explore the exploitation of GS-based composites with
various materials such as conducting polymers or metal
oxides. Liu et al. prepared flexible graphene sheet
(GS)/polyaniline (PANI) nanofibers composite paper via a

Conducting Polymers and their Applications

facile and fast two-step route composed of electrostatic

adsorption between negatively-charged poly(sodium 4styrenesulfonate) (PSS) mediated GS (coded as PSS-GS) and
positively-charged PANi nanofibers. The follow-up vacuum
filtration of the as-prepared PSS-GS / PANi nanofibers
suspension is given in Fig. (2) [82].
2.2. Ligth Emitting Diodes (LED)
Burroughes et al. studied the polymer light-emitting
diodes (PLEDs), which have been become the topic of
intense academic and industrial research. PLEDs based on
PPV are now coming out as commercial products. When
compared to inorganic or organic materials for LEDs, the
main advantages of the polymer electroluminescence (EL)
devices are their fast response times, process ability, the
possibility of uniformly covering large areas, low operating
voltages, and the many methods were applied to fine-tune
their optical and electrical properties by varying the structure.
At present, only green and orange LEDs meet the requirements
of commercial use, even though all three primary colors (red,
green and blue) have been exhibited in LEDs, [83-85].
Polymers in the electronics industry overtake their long
established passive roles as insulating and encapsulating
materials to more active new applications [86-88]. They can
be also designed for microlitographic applications [89, 90].
-conjugated polymers reported in literature, poly(pphenylenevinylenes) (PPVs), [91, 92] poly(dialkylfluorenes)
(PFs), [93] polythiophenes (PThs), [94] and their derivatives
exhibit the most promising potential for PLED applications
and have been used extensively. Many techniques have been
proposed to improve the performance of PLEDs by
modifying the chemical structure of the polymer with bulky
phenyl side groups, or PPV-based alternating copolymers
[95, 96].
Veinot et al. produced ITO / TPD-Si2 / PFO / Ca / Al
PLED devices and the response to PLEDs with ITO and
ITO / PEDOT PSS anodes. They have investigated polymer
LEDs, charge injection and continuitiy at the anode-hole
transport layer interface. The basic multilayer structure of a
prototypical LED is shown in Fig. (3A). Each layer plays a
specific role in producing organic electroluminescence. The
functions of the ETL and EML are fulfilled by an aluminum

Current Physical Chemistry, 2012, Vol. 2, No. 3


quinoxalate (Alq) or poly(9,9-dioctylfluorene) (PFO) layer.

The HTL is oxidized as holes which are injected from the
anode into its highest occupied molecular orbital (HOMO),
and the ETL is reduced as electrons are injected from the
cathode into its lowest unoccupied molecular orbital
(LUMO). Charge carriers migrate under the applied electric
field and recombine to form singlet and triplet excitons
within the EML. By means of both radiative and
nonradiative decay pathways, these excited-state species can
return to the ground state. Energy level offsets of the anode
and cathode functions from the HTL HOMO and ETL
LUMO energies, respectively [97-100].
The poly(2-methoxy-5-(2 ethyl-hexoxy)-1,4-phenylenevinylene) (MEH-PPV) is widely used in red-orange PLEDs
[101]. Because of their application on flat-panel display,
Kijima and co-workers have studied the radiative and carrier
injection layers of PLEDs [102]. Based thin-film transistors
(TFTs), hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) would be
one of the dominant devices to drive PLEDs. Yet, the
process integration of TFT and PLEDs is not simple.
Concerning the electron injection layer/hole injection layer
(EIL/HIL), instead of organic EIL/HIL the inorganic n-aSiCGe/p-a-SiH has been operated, and the process
integration of TFT and PLED could be further simplified. Lo
et al. [103] reported that the optoelectronic characteristics of
poly(2-methoxy-5-(2 ethyl-hexoxy)-1,4-phenylene-vinylene)
(MEH-PPV) polymer LEDs (PLEDs) have been enhanced by
operating thin doped composition-graded (CG) hydrogenated
amorphous siliconcarbide (a-SiC:H) films as carrier
injection layers and O2-plasma treatment on indiumtinoxide (ITO) transparent electrode.
Among all the conjugated polymers developed in the past
years for device application, polythiophene (PT) has been
selected because of its high chemical stability and structural
tailorability. PT can be usefully exploited to design proper
structures for the targeted aims (color emission, physical
properties, such as glass transition temperatures, etc.) [104].
Substantial performance enhancement may be obtained
directly by modifying the properties of the active organic
material. For instance, adding a functional group to the main
polymer chain, or using polymer blends, have resulted in
highly efficient devices [105]. Cheylan, in a previous work,

Fig. (2). Left: Digital camera images (left) of PANi nanofibers colloid solution, PSS-GS dispersion and PSS-GS/PANi dispersion at different
reaction time. Middle: the free-standing PSS-GS paper (a) and (d), PSS-GS/PANi paper (b: 5%, c and e: 10%); right: illustration of
electrostatic adsorption between negatively-charged PSS-GS and positively-charged PANi molecules. Reprinted with permission from
Ref (82). Liu, S.; Liu, X.; Li, Z., Yang, S.; Wang, J. New J. Chem. 2011, 35, 369374.Copyrigth@

228 Current Physical Chemistry, 2012, Vol. 2, No. 3

Ates et al.

photoluminescence (PL) quantum yields, excellent chemical

and thermal stability, as well as photo stability, good
solubility, film-forming properties, the interest in these
polymers appeared [109-112]. One promising way to display
application is to use the white PLED combined with color
filters. For this purpose, highly efficient blue PLED is
critical to achieve white PLED through energy transfer
by using the blue emitters as the host and red/green
emitter as the dopants [113-117]. Poly(9,9-dioctylfluorene)
(PFO), a PF derivative, would greatly reduce the barriers
to make high-performance blue PLED. The optical
and morphological properties of PFO depending on the
molecular weight have been shown by Hosoi et al. [118]. In
general, a higher molecular weight implies better stability,
and purity of the material. The low molecular weight
polymers are also known to have poor color stability owing
to easier chain motions under device operation. Elimination
of the low molecular weight components is known to
improve the performance [119].

Fig. (3). (A) (I) Schematic of a typical OLED heterostructure. (II)

Energy level diagram of a typical multilayer OLED. LWE ) low
work function electrode, ETL/EL ) electron transport/emissive
layer, and HTL ) hole transport layer. A and B indicate the cathodeETL and anode-HTL interface, respectively. (B) Approximate
energy diagram for electrodes and organic layers in the present
OLEDs. Arrows denote the barriers to electron (blue) and hole (red)
injection. (C) Approximate energy diagram for electrodes and
organic layers in a typical PFO-based PLED. Arrows denote
the barriers to electron (black) and hole (red) injection. Reprinted
with permission from Ref (100). Veinot, J.G.C.; Marks, T.J. Acc.
Chem. Res. 2005, 38, 632-643. Copyrigth@American Chemical

[106] synthesized thiophene based polymer by adding a

functional cyano group to its side-chain and investigated
its potential use in LEDs. The cyano group (CN) allows
the use of more stable metal electrodes (e.g. aluminium)
for electron injection, as it has provided high electron
affinity [107]. Cheylan and co-worker [108] reported that on
the overall improvement of a single layer organic lightemitting diode device is based on poly{[3-hexylthiophene]co-3-[2-(p-cyano-phenoxy) ethyl] thiophene} (PTOPhCN),
which is built by adding cyano group as a side-chain
substituent of the thiophenic backbone onto the main
polymer chain and showing promising results for lightemitting diode devices.
Polyfluorene (PF) and its derivative poly(9, 9-di-nhexylfluorene) (PDHF), has been reported as blue lightemitting polymer. Since PF and its derivatives show high

Tseng et al. [120] produced three types of device,

including the doped hostguest emission layer (EML) in
single layer structure (type I), HTL/EML bilayer device
(type II), and HTL/hostguest EML bilayer device (type III).
Schematic energy profile for type I device is shown in Fig.
(4A) and for type II in Fig. (4B). They reveal a highly
efficient deep blue polymer light-emitting diode based on
poly(9,9-dioctylfluorene). The performance found is that it
increases significantly with the molecular weight. Two
different molecular weights have been compared, namely
71.000 and 365.000. The electroluminescent efficiency and
color stability have been improved by slightly doping hole
traps into the emission layer and bilayer structure.

Fig. (4). Schematic electronic energy profile for the (A) type I
(PFO: 1 wt % TFB) device structure (B) type II (TFB/ PFO) device
structure. The numbers are in eV. Reprinted with permission from
Ref (120). Tseng, S.T.; Li, S.Y.; Meng, H.F.; Yu, Y.H.; Yang,
C.M.; Liao, H.H.; Horng, S.F.; Hsu, C.S. Organic Electronics 2008,
9, 279284. Copyrigth@Elsevier.

Conducting Polymers and their Applications

2.3. Solar Cell

Fossil energy usage causes serious environmental
problems. It is necessary to look for clean and renewable
energy resource, such as solar energy, which is called the
really green energy, having nearly unlimited supply
capability and being widely distributed all over the earth.
In spite of the fact that the direct photovoltaic energy
conversion in matters of magnitude is more energy efficient
than any of those indirect sources, the global use of
photovoltaic (PV) is only emerging at a slow pace. The issue
behind is that the cost of PV modules based on traditional
PV technology is still too high to be afforded by common
energy consumption [121].
The use of polymeric materials in the design and
fabrication of low cost organic electronic devices,
photovoltaic devices, or plastic electronics, has received
much attention. When comparing the organic technology to
the silicon-based photovoltaics (PV), the two very different
technologies are complementary in many ways. Organic
photovoltaics (OPVs) offer low cost solution processing,
flexible substrates, low thermal budget and a very high speed
of processing [122]. When organic solar cells are compared
to the established inorganic solar cell techniques, a
significant disadvantage of the organic solar cells is the low
overall power conversion efficiency. There are several
factors influencing the efficiency of OPVs, [123, 124], such
as the structure of the polymer, the morphology of the film,
the interfaces between the layers (organic/metal,
organic/organic), and the choice of electron acceptor [125].
To realize exciton dissociation in organic PV cell, the
electron donor/acceptor approach is an effective way. The
photoactive layer in a polymer solar cell should at least
consist of two constituents, which are electron donor (donor
or D) and electron acceptor (acceptor or A), respectively.
The widely used donor constituents are mainly the
conjugated polymers, such as polyphenylene vinylene
(PPV), polythiophene (PT), polyfluorene (PF) or their
derivatives. However, other donor materials with much
lower bandgap are present; for example, the copolymers
consisting of the segments of thiophene, fluorene, pyrizine,
and so on. The electron acceptor materials heavily used are
usually C60 or its derivatives, the inorganic nanoparticle

Current Physical Chemistry, 2012, Vol. 2, No. 3


acceptor, such as ZnO and CdSe, and the conjugated

polymers with cyano group having strong electron affinity.
In order to ensure an efficient exciton dissociation process,
the lowest unoccupied molecular orbital (LUMO) level of
donor material should be a little higher than that of the
acceptor. Acceptor paves the way for the electron transfer
from donor to acceptor (Figs. 5-6). This energy transfer has
already been conducted successfully, provided that the
LUMO level of donor is 0.3-0.4 eV higher than that of the
acceptor [126].

Fig. (6). Schematic illustration of a typical polymer solar cell based

on bulk-heterojunction structure. Reprinted with permission from
Ref (126). Gui, L.L.; GuangHao, L.; XiaoNiu, Y.; EnLe, Z. Chinese
Science Bulletin 2007, 52 (2) ,145-158. Copyrigth@Springer.

The process of conversion of light into electricity by

polymer solar cells is illustrated in Fig. (7). There are three
operational mechanisms determining that the polymer solar
cells have capability to generate electricity. Electricity
absorption of a photon either by electron donor or by
electron acceptor leads to the formation of an excited state
In polymer solar cells, poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT) is
a prominent semiconducting polymer. The self-assemble
is the advantage of P3HT [128]. The enhancement is
probably easyness of due to the better organization of P3HT
molecules [129]. X-ray diffraction demonstrates that a part
of P3HT molecules is oriented with their main chain in
parallel and with side chains perpendicular to the substrate
[130]. Fig. (8) illustrates the molecular structure to be near
the interface before and after thermal annealing treatment

Fig. (5). Schematic of photovoltaic effect in an organic solar cell via donor/acceptor approach.(PCBM: ([6,6]-phenyl-C61-butyric acid
methylester; MEH-PPV: Poly[2-methoxy-5-(2'-ethylhexyloxy)-1,4-phenylenevinylene]). Reprinted with permission from Ref (126). Gui,
L.L.; GuangHao, L.; XiaoNiu, Y.; EnLe, Z. Chinese Science Bulletin 2007, 52 (2) ,145-158. Copyrigth@Springer.

230 Current Physical Chemistry, 2012, Vol. 2, No. 3

Ates et al.

Fig. (7). Schematic illustration of operational mechanisms in polymer solar cells. a) Absorption of light, b) change separation and c) change
collection. Reprinted with permission from Ref (131). Cai, W.; Gong, X.; Cao, Y. Solar Energy Materials & Solar Cells 2010, 94, 114-127.

Fig. (8). Illustrations of the molecular structure near the interface before (a-c) and after (d-f) annealing. Reprinted with permission from Ref
(131). Cai, W.; Gong, X.; Cao, Y. Solar Energy Materials & Solar Cells 2010, 94,114-127. Copyrigth@Elsevier.

The combination of poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT) and

the C60 derivative, ([6, 6]-phenyl-C61-butyric acid methyl
ester) PCBM, shows good PV properties with efficiencies
beyond 5 % [132-134]. Nevertheless, it is also found that the
performance of P3HT:PCBM solar cells is affected by
molecular weights, polydispersity [135], regiochemistry
[136], mixed solvents without heat treatment [137], applying
external electric field [138], proper solvent [139], solvent
vapor treatment [140], and added additives such as oleic acid
[141, 142].
Regarding the conjugated polymers applied in solar cell
as electron donors, the broad absorption and high charge
mobility are crucial for highly efficient photovoltaic devices.
In order to broaden the absorption spectrum and enhance the
mobility of charge carriers, many attempts have been made
to modify the chemical structures of conjugated polymers
[143] and to optimize device architectures of the solar cells
[144]. The attachment of the non-conjugated side chains to
the polymer backbones is a common strategy to tune the
optical and electronic properties of -conjugated polymers

[145-147]. Li and co-workers have shown the conjugated

side chain [148, 149], which broadens the absorption spectra
and enhances the hole mobility of PTs and PPVs effectively.
Studies also demonstrate that the hole mobility [150] of PPV
neat film and the electrons mobility [151] of PCBM are low
and unbalanced. Mikroyannidis and co-workers have
reported that an alternating PPV copolymer, including
thiophene with cyanovinylene 4-nitrophenyl side segments,
shows better power conversion efficiency (PCE) of 3.7 %
[152]. The absorption spectra and the charge transporting
properties of PPVs could be improved by introduction
triphenylamine or bithiophene segments to PPV backbones,
since the conjugated side chains are also proved by Shen and
in previous works [153, 154]. Shen et al. [155] synthesized
three PPV derivatives (Fig. 9) with different thiophene
segments as the conjugated side chains. The polymers
exhibit good thermal stability and film-forming ability. The
absorption spectra indicate the short conjugated side
chains having slight influence on the UV-region spectra
of PPVs. By increasing the length of conjugated side

Conducting Polymers and their Applications

chains, the absorption of the UV-region red-shifts. The

photoluminescence spectra reveal complete exciton energy
transfer occurring from the conjugated side chains to the
main chains of the polymers. The polymers emit yelloworange light with the emission maximum peaks in the region
of 525 550 nm in chloroform solution and 611 616 nm in
thin films.
As seen in Fig. (10), both the EHOMO and ELUMO of the
polymers are close to the ideal range. The EHOMO and ELUMO
of the donor polymers are very important for the efficient
photovoltaic cell. The EHOMO of an ideal donor polymer
should be lower than the air oxidation threshold (ca. 5.2
eV) in order to ensure the good air stability (that is, to be
resistant to oxidation) [156]. Moreover, the relatively low
EHOMO of the polymers may lead to a high open-circuit
potential (Voc) value for the photovoltaic cell [157].
However, a donor polymer intended for use with a soluble
fullerene acceptor (i.e., PCBM) should have an ELUMO offset
of approximately 0.3-0.4 eV relative to PCBM (- 4.2 eV) for

Current Physical Chemistry, 2012, Vol. 2, No. 3


the effective charge transfer. A complete picture of the band

structure of the three polymers and PCBM is shown in Fig.
(10). The first dashed line indicates the threshold for air
stability (- 5.2 eV) and the second dashed line represents the
threshold value for an effective charge transfer from the
polymers to PCBM (- 3.8 eV). The potential of conducting
polymers resides in their low cost, not because of the low
price of the materials applied, but due to the printing
techniques applied for their fabrication [158]. Among the
challenges to be overcome for this technology, are the
improvement of solar cell efficiency and the lifetime [159,
160]. Therefore, encapsulation of these devices is a stringent
need [161]. Various attempts have been made to find better
electron transport materials with better transport properties
and higher stability towards oxygen. So, semiconductor
oxides emerged as an attracting alternative to replace PCBM
in PVs owing to their interesting properties. In addition,
lower cost these oxides are wide bandgap materials able to
accept electrons effectively [162]. Antonio et al. [163]

Fig. (9). Chemical structures of three PPV derivatives with the different thiophene segments as the conjugated side chains were synthesized
by Shen and coworker. Reprinted with permission from Ref (155). Shen, P.; Ding, T.; Huang, H.; Zhao, B.; Tan, S. Synt. Met. 2010, 160,
1291-1298. Copyrigth@Elsevier.

Fig. (10). Band diagram for the donor polymers P1, P2, P3 and the acceptor PCBM. Dashed lines indicate the thresholds for air stability
(5.2 eV) and effective charge transfer to PCBM (3.8 eV). Reprinted with permission from Ref (155). Shen, P.; Ding, T.; Huang, H.; Zhao,
B.; Tan, S. Synt. Met. 2010, 160, 1291-1298. Copyrigth@Elsevier.

232 Current Physical Chemistry, 2012, Vol. 2, No. 3

studied with application of thin films of SnO2 as electron

acceptor in Hybrid solar cell (HSC). SnO2 thin films,
obtained from sol-gel solutions, have been applied in HSC in
a configuration ITO/SnO2 thin film/MEH-PPV/Ag [164,
165]. Other studies have reported that the electron transfer
from MEH-PPV to SnO2 is energetically favorable and can
be photoinduced. Even though these processes are known to
be slower than those for TiO2, the electron transfer rate from
the polymer MEH-PPV and the SnO2 is in matters of
microseconds, yielding a possible candidate to construct
HSCs [166].
2.4. Field Effect Transistors (FET)
Conducting polymers advantages over conventional
materials, such as silicon and germanium, include low cost
and ease of processing. Organic or polymer-based
semiconductors have been applied to fabricate field-effect
transistors (FETs) since 1983 [167]. There have been many
on going efforts to form organic or polymer-based FETs
[168-171]. Organic or polymer based transistors have
already found their application, such as in smart pixels [172]
and sensors [173].
Various approaches involve several techniques, including
solution processed deposition, spin coating and printing,
electro-polymerization, vacuum evaporation, etc. Other
techniques (soft lithography, self assembly, and LangmuirBlodgett) have been also applied to the fabrication of
polymer based FETs and have been used to deposit
conducting polymer or organic semiconductors [174-177].
Li et al. [178] produced FET device poly(3,4ethylenedioxythiophene) working as the source/drain/gate
electrode material and polypyrrole acting as the
semiconducting layer. Poly(vinyl pyrrolidone) K60 (PVPK60), an insulating polymer, operates as the dielectric layer.
The construction of the device follows a number of steps.
First, a layer of aluminum 2 000 thick is deposited on the
silicon dioxide wafer and patterned with UV lithography to
form the contact pads. Next, PEDOT/PSS is printed on the
Al gate pad at a substrate to form the gate electrode. Then,
the PVP-K60 dispersion in water is dispensed onto the gate.
The third printing step was to dispense PPy onto the PVPK60 to form the active layer. Finally, the top source and
drain electrodes made of PEDOT/PSS are printed onto the
top of the PPy active layer and also extended to the Al
source/drain contact pads under the same conditions which
are used for printing the gate electrode.
Due to the high solubility and the high carrier mobility
up to ~ 0.5 cm2 /V s among conducting polymers, the
regioregular poly(3-alkylthiophene) attracts great attention as
a promising material for the growing area of molecular
electronics. The self-organization of the alkyl-side chains in
thin films facilitates the formation of a lamella structure with
stacking between adjacent polymer chains favorable for
the high carrier mobility [179]. The high field-effect mobility,
stability and solution processability of regioregular poly(3alkylthiophene)s (P3ATs) result in a growing interest in the
utilization of these polymers as active materials in organic
field-effect transistors (OFETs) [180, 181]. In particular,
supramolecular two-dimensional ordering of the P3AT
chains with high regioregularity enhances high field-effect

Ates et al.

mobility, as it is shown in previous studies [182]. Many

factors affect the structures of P3AT films and the electric
properties of FETs which are based on these films. The
molecular parameters are regioregularity [183], molecular
weight [184] and side chain length [185]. The processing
conditions, are solvent power [186], film thickness [187],
doping level [188] and the method used to form the film
affect [189]. One of the key factors is the alkyl side chain
length greatly affecting the solubility of these polymers in
organic solvents for P3ATs. P3ATs, which are long alkyl
side chains, are highly soluble. They facilitate the fabrication
of transistor devices by solution processing. On the other
hand, for linear alkyl chains, the field-effect mobility is
expected to reduce the increasing chain length due to the
isolated nature of the alkyl substituents [190]. Park et al.
[191] reported the effect of alkyl side chain length on the
molecular ordering and electrical properties of regioregular
poly(3-alkylthiophene) (P3AT)-based field-effect transistors
(FETs). They used P3ATs with various alkyl side chain
lengths (alkyl = butyl [P3BT], hexyl [P3HT], octyl [P3OT])
as active materials. The structure and alkyl chain length of
the P3ATs have been correlated with the electrical properties
of FETs based on these films. The FET based on poly(3butylthiophene) were compared to the other P3ATs thin
films in a few nanometers of the semiconductor near the
interface between the semiconductor and insulator. Thus, the
P3BT thin film has more opportunities to transport the
charge carrier at the interface between the semiconductor
and insulator. Because the forming from molecules with
short side chains has a higher density of p-stacked ordered
structures in the charge transport region, the film shows the
highest field-effect mobility [191].
Polypyrrole (PPy) is a multi-purpose organic
semiconductor with a high technological potential.
Compared to other semiconducting polymers, it has two
main advantages, namely a low electropolymerization
potential allowing film formation in water and the stability
under ambient conditions [192]. Because the film grows
only on the conductive parts of the substrate, electropolymerization is not particularly well suited to prepare
transistor structures. In order to investigate PPy films in a
multi-terminal geometry, they are increased to a sufficiently
large thickness of at least 50 m. This allows their
mechanical transfer from the polymerization electrode onto a
suitable electrode geometry [193]. In other words, they are
synthesized on electrically isolated electrodes being bridged
by lateral PPy growth [194, 195]. Moreover, chemical
synthesis of PPy films from pyrrole vapor [196, 197] on a
patterned Fe (III) / Fe (II) oxidant film enables the operation
of transistors [198, 199]. However, the Fe (III) / Fe(II)
patterning technique suffers from residues of both Fe (II) and
Fe (III) in the PPy film [200]. Bufon and Heinzel [201]
reported that PPy films can be used as active layers in
transistors. By chemical polymerization of pyrrole, homogeneous and smooth PPy films have been defined on a doped
and oxidized Si substrate.
The device preparation is shown in Fig. (11). Pt contacts
are patterned by optical lithography on a thermally oxidized
As-doped Si wafer Fig. (11a). The oxide has a thickness of
100 nm. The separation between the Pt electrodes is 2 m
Fig. (11b). Prior to the polymerization step, conventional

Conducting Polymers and their Applications

photolithography is used to define a photoresist pattern

acting as a deposition mask [201].

Fig. (11). (a) Cross sectional schemes illustrating the sample

preparation. (b) Top view of the sample as seen in an optical
microscope. The type B PPy film (horizontal stripe) runs across
the two Pt electrodes on top of silicon oxide. (c) AFM image of
the type B PPy film morphology in the active region over an area
of 1 m2. The gray scale represents the height. Reprinted with
permission from Ref (201). Bufon, C.C.; Heinzel T. Applied Physics
Letters, 2006, 89(1), 012104. Copyrigth@ American Institute of

2.5. Biosensors
Biosensor is a device which has a biological sensing
element either connected to or integrated within a transducer.
The purpose is to produce a digital electronic signal,
proportional to the concentration of a specific chemical
or set of chemicals [202]. The biochemical transducer or
biocomponent imparts to the biosensor, selectivity or
specificity. A transducer tranforms the biochemical signal
into an electronic signal. Suitable transducing system can be
fitted in a sensor assembly depending on the nature of the
biochemical interaction with the species of interest [203,
204]. Biocomponents that can function as biochemical
transducers are tissues, yeast, bacteria, antibodies/antigens,
liposomes, organelles, enzymes, etc. [205, 206]. Within a
biosensor, the recognition of biomolecule incorporated
possesses a level of selectivity, but it can be affected by
extreme conditions, such as temperature, and pH and ionic
strength [207]. Most of the biological molecules, such as
enzymes, receptors, antibodies, cells, etc., have very short
lifetime in solution phase. However, they can be fixed in a

Current Physical Chemistry, 2012, Vol. 2, No. 3


suitable matrix. The immobilization of the biological

component against the environmental conditions results in
decreased enzyme activity [208, 209]. The activity of
immobilized molecules depends on the surface area,
porosity, and the hydrophillic character of immobilizing
matrix. These are the bound reaction conditions and the
methodology chosen for immobilization process.
Conducting polymers have attracted much interest as
suitable matrices of biomolecules that can be used to
enhance stability, speed, and sensitivity and thus as being
useful in medical diagnostics [210-211]. In order to obtain a
long operational life of the biomolecules, or enzyme in an
analytic device, the technique of the enzyme-immobilization
onto the transducer is a key process to develop a good
biosensor. Enzymes can be immobilized on transducer by
using such methods as adsorption, covalent attachment,
cross-linking and entrapment. As for the adsorption method,
it utilizes the hydrophilic or hydrophobic properties of the
material, such as ion exchange resin [212] and nylon [213],
to construct the enzyme electrode. The method of covalent
attachment uses the functional group in the biomolecules,
such as -NH2, -COOH, and-SH, for binding with transducer
chemically [214]. Covalent attachment, based on ethyldimethylaminopropylcarbodiimide (EDC) and N-hydroxysuccinimide (NHS) coupling chemistry, has been used
to improve the stability of the desired biomolecules
onto conducting polymers [215]. Cosnier et al. reported
the electropolymerization of a dicarbazole monomer
functionalised with a N-hydroxysuccinimide group. The
immobilisation of both polyphenol oxidase (PPO) and
thionine, which is a redox dye, has been carried out [216].
p-Aminophenol (p-AP) has been widely used as a raw
chemical material and an important intermediate in various
fields, such as medicine, sulfur and azo dyes, rubber,
feeding-stuff, petroleum, photography, and others. As a
result, large amounts of p-AP may enter the environment as a
pollutant [217]. Sarac et al. have demonstrated that by using
thin film, electro-coated poly[N-vinylcarbazole-co-vinylbenzene sulfonic acid] (p[NVCzVBSA]), poly[carbazole-comethylthiophene] (p[CzMeTh]) and polycarbazole (PCz)
carbon fibre microelectrodes, can be used for the detection of
some biologically important species, such as p-aminophenol.
These modified carbon fibre electrodes are found to be
effective systems to determine p-AP. Thin film coated
p[NVCzVBSA] is the most suitable modified electrode for
the detection of p-AP [218].
Dopamine (DA) is a monoamine neurotransmitter of both
the central and peripheral nervous systems. It plays an
important role in neural immune communication [219]. In
order to achieve simultaneous voltammetric measurement of
DA and ascorbic acid (AA), Ciszewski et al. have
investigated different polymer coatings [220] and introduced
new carbon electrode materials [221]. The voltammetric
resolution obtained is good, but some of the approaches
either show a less favorable detection capability with the
conventionally sized electrodes, used in all of these studies
[222], or require a nonphysiological pH of the medium
[223]. Despite these great achievements, it seems that further
efforts are necessary in order to introduce a suitable
voltammetric microprobe for simple, selective and reliable

234 Current Physical Chemistry, 2012, Vol. 2, No. 3

simultaneous measurement of DA and AA at their

physiological concentrations. Modified polycarbazole/carbon
fiber microelectrode (CFME) is studied for biosensor
applications to detect DA concentration by Sarac and coworker. Results show that the electrodes have a reversible
and stable behaviour over the sixty eight days of testing for
dopamine (100 M) in buffer solution. A detection limit for
polycarbazole (PCz) thin films is obtained as low as 0.1 M
using CV. Hence, this sensor can be considered to be a
promising sensor for dopamine detection [224]. Polymer
films of N-vinylcarbazole (N-VCz) have been electrocoated
on CFME. Its response to dopamine have been studied in
different solution [225].
Organophosphates (OPs) have been used as pesticides
in modern agriculture given their low tenacity and high
insecticidal activity [226]. Yet, due to their long-term
accumulation in environment, OPs pollutions have caused
serious public concern regarding the food safety and human
health [227, 228]. Many analytic methods, containing
gas chromatography [229], liquid chromatography [230],
ultraviolet spectroscopy [231], and others, have been grown
to assess OPs disclosures. Although these methods could
quantitatively provide an accurate evaluation of the health
risk of integrated OPs disclosures, they still suffer from some
intrinsic disadvantages of either low detection specificity and
sensitivity or of expensive analysis settings entailing well
trained personnel and inconvenience for field applications.
Hence, simple, sensitive, selective, and field deployable tools
are still highly desired for biomonitoring and diagnostic
evaluation of OP disclosures.
Amperometric acetylcholinesterase (AChE) biosensors
demonstrate a promising alternative to the traditional
methods owing to their good selectivity, sensitivity, rapid
response, and miniature size. AChE biosensors have shown
satisfactory results for pesticides analysis [232], where
the enzymatic activity is employed as an indicator of
quantitative measurement of insecticides [232]. Du et al.
reported immobilized acetylcholinesterase (AChE) on
polypyrrole (PPy) and polyaniline (PANI) copolymer doped
with multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs). The
synthesized PANI-PPy-MWCNTs copolymer presentes a
porous and homogeneous morphology which provides an
ideal size to entrap enzyme molecules. Because of the
biocompatible microenvironment which is offered by the
copolymer network, the obtained composite is designed for
AChE attachment, arising from a stable AChE biosensor for
screening of organophosphates (OPs) disclosure [233].
Conducting polymers, such as polythiophene, polyparaphenylene vinylene, polycarbazole, polyaniline and
polypyrrole, represent new advanced materials as a key issue
for the development of new devices and structures offering
the association of the various properties required in advanced
applications. Supercapacitors, due to their capability to
deliver during high momentary periods, are presently using
as the electrical energy storage devices. They have technical
and economic advantages in electrical appliances, such as
power supplies, protection of computer memory, microchip,
fuel cells and batteries. Supercapacitors are unique devices

Ates et al.

exhibiting 20-200 times greater capacitance than batteries

and conventional capacitor. Light emitting diodes (LEDs)
are used in applications as diverse as replacements for
automative lighting, such as brake lamps, turn signals and
automative traffic signals. LEDs are also used in remote
control units of many commercial products including DVD
players, televisions and other domestic appliances. A solar
cell is an electric device that converts the energy of sunlight
directly into electricity by the photovoltaic effect. In standalone systems, batteries are used to store the energy that is
not needed immediately. Solar panels can be used to power
or recharge portable devices. The field effect transistor
(FET) uses in electric field to control the shape and thus
the conductivity of a channel of one type of charge carrier
in a semiconductor material. FET technology is the basis
for modern digital integrated circuits. A biosensor is an
analytical device which converts a biological response
into an electrical signal. The response of the biosensor is
determined by the biocatalytic membrane which accomplishes
the conversion of reactant product.
As a result, conducting polymers have been considered
for important materials in microelectronics applications,
electrocatalysis, fuel cell electrodes, light emitting diodes,
biosensor microelectrodes, reinforced composites, biomedical
applications and etc. The synthesis and the characterization
of the high surface area nanomaterials (such as nanotubes,
nanowires, etc.) have also been mentioned in the text.
Declared none.
Declared none.



Ascorbic acid




Aluminum quinoxalate


Activated carbons




Carbon fiber microelectrode


Cyano group


Composition graded


Carbon nanotubes


Conducting polymer





Emissive layer


Electron injected layer/hole

injection layer


Electron transport layer



Conducting Polymers and their Applications

Current Physical Chemistry, 2012, Vol. 2, No. 3


Electrochemical double layer





Field effect transistors


Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy


Graphane sheet


Hydrogenated amorphous silicon


Hole transport layer



Hydrogenetad amorphous siliconcarbide



Highest occupied molecular orbital


Inkjet printing


Indium tin oxide


Low work function electrode


Lowest unoccupied molecular




Light emitting diodes



Multi-walled carbon nanotubes






Organic photovoltaics


Organic field effect-transistors













Poly(sodium 4-styrenesulfonate)



Polymer light emitting diodes












Polyvinylpyrrolidone K60


Poly(2-methoxy-5-(2 ethyl-hexaxy)1,4-phenylene vinylene





Poly(N-vinylcarbazole-co-vinylbenzene sulfonic acid)






Thin film transistors


Transparent conducting oxide


X-Ray photoelectron spectroscopy





















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Revised: May 13, 2011

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