Polymers with charged groups are ubiquitous in energy applications including fuel cells, batteries, and solar fuels generation/storage where solid state, flexible devices are desired. Nature also makes ample use of charged macromolecules as lubricants in mammalian joints and as ionic signaling channels in cell walls. The next-generation of engineering ionic polymers will derive their performance not only from their bulk structure but also from carefully tuned interfacial and surface interactions.
Our group seeks to probe interfacial dynamics and thermodynamics using advanced spectroscopic methods and materials synthesis to address an array of fundamental and applied problems. The molecular scale information will then be applied to understand bulk material properties as determined via dielectric spectroscopy, electrorheology, and mechanical testing. These insights will enable the design of improved polymer electrolytes for energy storage/generation and water purification.
Most of our experiments focus on polymers with bulky, delocalized charges based on ionic liquid chemistries. These polymerized ionic liquids (PILs) flow where conventional charged polymer do not thus enabling fundamental diffusion studies. Additionally, these PILs possess massive dielectric constants ushering in a new class of high dielectric blends and strongly voltage responsive polymers.