Introduction to Organic Semiconductors Using Accessible Undergraduate Chemistry Concepts

Kevin L. Kohlstedt, Nicholas E. Jackson, Brett A. Savoie, Mark A. Ratner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Organic semiconductors (OSCs) are making great progress as active components in alternative energy and flexible electronics technologies that are of interest to many undergraduates. However, in materials governed by the confluence of multiple length scales (molecular (Angstrom), intermolecular (nm), domain (100s nm)), providing a pedagogically accessible pathway to incorporating OSCs into undergraduate education can be difficult. Here, we provide a multiscale description of OSCs that relies only on concepts covered in typical undergraduate chemistry and chemical engineering curricula: a tight-binding description of molecular orbitals using Hückel theory, the miscibility of intermolecular domains using thermodynamic principles based on the Ising spin model, the incorporation of thermal disorder of both the electronic and molecular states using the Boltzmann distribution, and a simple description of charge percolation using low-level graph theory. We illustrate these topics on a small organic molecule, 1,3,5-hexatriene, simple enough to be utilized in an undergraduate course without resorting to opaque metrics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1500-1511
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 11 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Analogies/Transfer
  • Conformational Analysis
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Molecular Modeling
  • Physical Chemistry
  • Polymer Chemistry
  • Transport Properties
  • Upper-Division Undergraduate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Education


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