Conducting polymers have been commercialized in rechargeable batteries and offer the greatest promise for high energy storage with low weight.
Polymer sensors exist for chemical species, thermal and acoustic radiation, temperature, pressure, humidity, ionizing radiation, electric charge, and more.
Buildings can be equipped with a network of optical fibers linking remote locations with a management console. The polymer sensors can be built into the optical fibers to report the presence of toxic gases or to turn off unneeded lights to conserve energy.
Implanted sensors can detect the glucose level in blood and call for insulin injections by means of an implanted pump, as needed.
Electromagnetic shielding will become increasingly necessary, and conducting polymers offer solutions that are conveniently fabricated in complex shapes.
Polymer resists are the basis for the microlithography that makes integrated circuit electronics possible. They are also the basis for the emerging field of micromechanics, which could produce machines smaller than a human cell.
High-density information storage is available through compact disk technology, and improved polymers will improve the performance of this medium. In the future, polymer-based holographic devices could revolutionize the storage and manipulation of information.
Polymers offer solutions to critical economic problems facing the introduction of photonics, the light analog of electronics. The couplers, splitters, and other elements of photonic "circuit boards" all admit to polymeric solutions that may provide the economic breakthrough needed for the photonic revolution. Broad-band communications can be brought directly to the home and office by polymer or glass fibers, using polymeric photonic circuits.
"Smart" windows based on polymeric materials could reflect light when the sun is too bright and transmit light when it is not.
The fabrication of liquid crystal display devices for computers and television can be facilitated and the robustness of the product enhanced by the incorporation of conductive, transparent polymer films.
Light-emitting diodes based on flexible polymeric films have been fabricated and are likely to find diverse applications in the future.
Electrophotography is now based on polymeric photoactive materials, and these have made possible many improvements, such as compact and convenient machine architecture, durability of machines, and long-term print quality.
Polymers are now the recording medium of choice for holography in many applications. This technology offers the promise of ultrahigh-density information storage.
The field is flourishing, and the future is bright. The United States must participate vigorously in this emerging area, from research to development to