Polymers that can conduct ions are important for many emerging technologies such as such as lithium-ion batteries, next generation batteries, as well as new types of polymer-based transistors that could be used as sensors in biological systems. These materials may lead to increased safety and performance of batteries, which is crucial as their use grows. A variety of materials will be produced whose compositions can be adjusted allowing for a balance between different kinds of properties. They could contribute to batteries with materials that are less flammable, lighter, flexible, or have more storage capacity than current materials. Additionally, these new ion conductive materials could contribute to biological sensors that depend on ion transport. This research will include collaborations with scientists at other academic institutions and use of instrumentation at national facilities as needed. Development of the scientific workforce will be supported through the direct involvement of undergraduate students in all aspects of this research and conducted at a predominantly undergraduate institution. Outreach activities will involve underrepresented junior high and high school students through involvement with the Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement program and professional development opportunities for early college STEM scholars.
Polymer electrolyte materials will be developed for potential use as solid polymer electrolyte supports in lithium-ion or other next-generation batteries as well as use in blends for organic electrochemical transistors. These polymers will be based on dicarboximide oxanorbornene monomers allowing for homo- and di-block copolymers to be synthesized using ring-opening metathesis polymerization. This base monomer allows for design flexibility where side chains will include flexible oligomeric ethylene oxides (high salt solubility), single-ion conducting units, and other groups, which allow for a higher glass transition temperature and modulus. A variety of materials will be produced where copolymer composition can be adjusted allowing for a balance between glass transition temperature and the ion concentration. The best performing single-ion conductor solid polymer electrolytes will be used as one component in a block copolymer with the second component having a high modulus for dendritic suppression. Second, ion transport and blend morphology of organic mixed electronic and ionic conductors will be studied using related polymer electrolytes and a model ?-conjugated semi-conducting polymer to optimize their performance in an organic electrochemical transistor device. These new materials will be evaluated by dielectric spectroscopy, atomic force microscopy, DSC, and potentially solid-state NMR. If scattering data (X-rays or neutrons) are needed, this research will be conducted with collaborators or at national laboratories. Undergraduate student researchers will be involved in all aspects of this research and will participate in outreach activities. .
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.