Abu Dhabi: Researchers discover organic crystal, can be used in advanced technology

It is able to reversibly change shape in a similar manner to plastics and rubber

Image used for illustrative purposes
Image used for illustrative purposes

Ismail Sebugwaawo

Published: Mon 23 May 2022, 4:14 PM

New research at the NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Smart Materials Lab demonstrates that organic crystals can serve as efficient and sustainable energy conversion materials.

It was published in the journal 'Nature Communications', on May 23.

Previously thought to be fragile, NYUAD researchers have discovered that some organic crystals are mechanically robust.

They developed a material that establishes a new record for its ability to switch between different shapes, without losing its perfectly-ordered structure.

In the study titled 'Exceptionally High Work Density of a Ferroelectric Dynamic Organic Crystal around Room Temperature', the team, led by NYUAD Professor of Chemistry Panče Naumov, presents the process of observing how the organic crystalline material reacted to different temperatures.

The researchers found that the organic crystals were able to reversibly change shape in a similar manner to plastics and rubber. Specifically, this material could expand and contract over half of its length (51 per cent) repeatedly, over thousands of cycles, without any deterioration.

It was also able to both expand and contract at room temperature, as opposed to other materials that require a higher temperature to transform, creating higher energy costs for operation.


Unlike traditional materials that are silicon- or silica-based, and inevitably stiff, heavy and brittle, the materials that will be used for future electronics will be soft and organic in nature.

These advanced technologies require materials that are lightweight, resilient to damage, efficient in performance, and also have added qualities such as mechanical flexibility and ability to operate sustainably, with minimal consumption of energy.

The results of this study have demonstrated, for the first time, that certain organic crystalline materials meet the needs of these technologies, and can be used in applications such as soft robotics, artificial muscles, organic optics, and organic electronics (electronics created solely from organic materials).

“This latest discovery from the Smart Materials Lab at NYUAD builds on a series of our previous discoveries about the untapped potential of this new class of materials, which includes adaptive crystals, self-healing crystals, and organic crystalline materials with shape memory,” said Naumov. “Our work has shown that organic crystals can not only meet the needs of the emerging technologies, but in some cases can also surpass the

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