Stretchable, color-changing, cross-linked polymers are very useful for actively tuning optical response in a reproducible and continuous way by applying mechanical force or changing temperature. These types of materials are used to develop sensors and switching devices. New polymers and hybrid materials, which present better and more efficient sensing performances and durability, are targeted in this research project. These new materials will be designed by precisely manipulating synthesis methods and thoroughly characterized for purity, structure and properties. Particular attention will be paid to color-changing properties of these polymer films upon application of heat and deformation. Scientific principles learned from these materials will be integrated and expanded for use in stretchable batteries and wearable optoelectronics, leading to societal benefits related to energy and electronic technologies. This project will also offer broader societal benefits through human resource development and scientific education at various academic levels. Outreach programs offering hands-on laboratory training targeted towards middle and high school students will be developed using materials and ideas developed in this project.
PART 2: TECHNICAL SUMMARY
Polymers containing liquid crystals are widely used in many technologies including displays, sensors, photonic materials and smart devices. Photonics, mechanical and elastomeric properties are key parameters that will determine ultimate usage of these materials. Block copolymers containing liquid crystals present self-assembly at multiple length scales resulting in unique nanostructures and is a very versatile platform to create new materials with unique photonic and mechanical characteristics. Different strategies to manipulate architecture, composition and hierarchical morphology of these block copolymers containing liquid crystals will be explored including interface manipulations, inclusion of various functional groups and structure-forming units. Detailed compositional, structural and morphological characterization of these materials will be performed. Particular attention will be paid to optoelectronic and mechanical properties, which will be helpful to tailor performance of mechanochromic and thermochromic sensors. The fundamental science and technological aspects of these materials will also impact their use in batteries and renewable energy applications.