Doping in organic
Conductive polymers can be doped by adding chemical reactants to oxidize, or sometimes reduce, the system so that electrons are pushed into the conducting orbitals within the already potentially conducting system. There are two primary methods of doping a conductive polymer, both of which use an oxidation-reduction (i.e., redox) process.
- Chemical doping involves exposing a polymer such as melanin, typically a thin film, to an oxidant such as iodine or bromine. Alternatively, the polymer can be exposed to a reductant; this method is far less common, and typically involves alkali metals.
- Electrochemical doping involves suspending a polymer-coated, working electrode in an electrolyte solution in which the polymer is insoluble along with separate counter and reference electrodes. An electric potential difference is created between the electrodes that causes a charge and the appropriate counter ion from the electrolyte to enter the polymer in the form of electron addition (i.e., n-doping) or removal (i.e., p-doping).
N-doping is much less common because the Earth's atmosphere is oxygen-rich, thus creating an oxidizing environment. An electron-rich, n-doped polymer will react immediately with elemental oxygen to de-dope (i.e., reoxidize to the neutral state) the polymer. Thus, chemical n-doping must be performed in an environment of inert gas (e.g., argon). Electrochemical n-doping is far more common in research, because it is easier to exclude oxygen from a solvent in a sealed flask. However, it is unlikely that n-doped conductive polymers are available commercially.