Since soft electronics will undoubtedly be a crucial component of the next generation of electronic technologies, it is imperative to design novel materials with not only better electronic properties, but also improved compatibility with the human body. Our group uses a multidisciplinary approach, combining polymer chemistry, organic synthesis and materials science to develop functional materials that will expand the current toolkit for scientists to produce and create next-generation electronics. Our research focuses on the design of new polymers with innovative properties such as self-healing, molecular stretchability and sustainability.
Stretchable and Self-Healing Materials
Our group develops new conjugated materials with improved thermomechanical and optoelectronic properties, and self-healing abilities by utilizing supramolecular chemistry. Weaker than covaleng bonds, the dynamic non-covalent interactions formed between the polymer chains can impact the morphology and help in strain dissipation. Our group recently exploited multiple types of non-covalent interactins, including hydrogen bonds, metal-ligand interaction and electrostatic interactions. Our team also develops new stretchable semiconductors through physical blending of conjugated polymers with thermoplastics and elastomeric materials. Due to the difference in surface energy between the soft materials and the conjugated polymer, the two matrices are not miscible, so upon mixing during molding, a phase separation occurs, creating segregated and isolated domains.
Check out this video from former undergraduate researcher Brynn Charron about the genesis of our new approach!
Molecular Engineering of π-Conjugated Polymers
Thanks to our great collaborators, our group investigate the rational design of conjugated polymers, to control not only the electronic properties, but also how soft the materials are. By varying the design elements during synthesis, such as the number of aromatic units in the π-conjugated backbone, or the length of the side chains, we can control the softness of the materials. Ultimately, the new relationships unravel in this work will provide a new design toolkit for soft conjugated polymers
Polymer Processing and Organic Electronics
Our group is particularly interested in using the materials we develop in the lab directly in organic electronics, such as transistors and biosensors. We also develop novel techniques to process the materials in solution and control their solubility and stability through innovative and sustainable crosslinking approached. All of the new procedures and design developed in our group are integrated into functional organic electronic devices, with improved mechanical properties and functionality.
Conjugated Polymer Nanoparticles
Our group also use π-conjugated materials to create conjugated polymer nanoparticles (CPNs), an evolving class of organic nanomaterials that has attracted a lot of attention in the materials science community, as new materials were shown to be biocompatible and stable in aqueous media while maintaining the favourable optoelectronic properties of the parent conjugated polymer. CPNs can be generated relatively easily from CP precursors and have particular advantages, including the possibility to introduce a myriad of peripheral functional groups at the CPN surface through the selection of the hydrophilic stabilizing compounds.