Organic semiconductors

Organic semiconductors are the materials that organic electronics components are made of.

Organic – What does that mean?

In this case ‘organic’ refers to the corresponding technical term in chemistry. Chemistry is divided into two areas, organic chemistry and inorganic chemistry. Organic chemistry deals with carbon-based1 compounds. The term ‘soft matter’ is also used frequently since organic materials are soft in comparison to many typical inorganic materials.

Organic – What does that mean?

Carbon (known e.g. in form of coal) is the basis for many organic compounds. These can be naturally occurring or synthetic. We frequently meet them in everyday life.

A few examples of organic and inorganic compounds:

Organic materials (soft matter) Inorganic materials
Plastics, synthetics
Pharmaceuticals (mostly)
Plants, animals, food
Wood, paper
Wax, fat, tar, oil, crude oil
Natural gas
Crystals (mostly)
Stone, sand

Crude oil


Organic chemistry is extremely versatile. This is illustrated in the diversity of living matter, which is made almost exclusively of organic compounds: Animals and plants with all their parts and senses that consist of countless substances with many different characteristics and specializations. Added to this is the entire class of synthetics and the many materials which were and are being developed in petrochemistry: different kinds of plastics, synthetic textiles, fuels and many other synthetics. At present many hundreds and thousands of organic compounds are known, new ones are constantly discovered and developed and no end to this is foreseeable yet.
Out of all these organic materials the materials used for organic semiconductor components are the most closely related to synthetics. These can be manufactured from fossil raw materials (crude oil) or plant fibers. Organic colorants (dyes, pigments) or polymers (plastic synthetics) are often used. Organic electronics is therefore often called Plastic Electronics; organic solar cells are called ‘plastic solar cells’.

Thirst for knowledge: Carbon rings and other molecular structures


The ‘thirst for knowledge’ sections offer further information for those interested; this information is not necessary for the general understanding.

1: Carbon is denoted by a capital ‘C’, from the Latin ‘carbo’ for charcoal.

Picture credits: Salt: Didier Descouens, Sand: Rosino on FlickR, Bell: Absoblogginlutely on Wikipedia

2012 by OES, Johannes Widmer