The operating principle of a hygroscopic insulator field-effect transistor has been investigated. The semiconductor poly(3-hexylthiophene) shows an increased conductivity after applying the poly(vinylphenol) (PVP) insulator, which is attributed to an interfacial dipole layer caused by the permanent dipole moment in PVP. The effects of solvents on the transistor device indicate that low molecular weight protic solvents such as water, methanol, and ethanol affect the I-V characteristics significantly, in contrast to 1-propanol and aprotic solvents such as acetonitrile. The presence of a protic solvent inside the device insulator gives rise to an ion-assisted modulation of the transistor source-drain current. (c) 2005 American Institute of Physics.