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University of Southern Mississippi

Understanding the Structure and Dynamics of Conjugated Polymers by Advancing Deuteration Chemistry and Neutron Scattering

Conjugated polymers (CPs) are critical to many energy-related technologies including solar photovoltaics and energy efficient light emitting diodes, and hold promise for the next generation of energy technologies. These unique polymers constitute a complex mixture of structural and energy heterogeneities. Although considerable progress has been made to optimize the optical and electronic properties of CPs, it remains a challenge to experimentally characterize conjugated backbone conformation and relate these to the optical and electronic properties. This project seeks to build a partnership between the University of Southern Mississippi and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to establish a comprehensive understanding of the structure and dynamics of CPs using novel deuteration chemistry and advanced neutron scattering techniques. This project aims to: i) develop new methodologies to efficiently deuterate CP sidechains; ii) understand the role of dynamic and static disorder of the sidechains on backbone rigidity and how this impacts optical, mechanical and electronic properties; and iii) formulate design principles for next-generation CPs that are resilient to disorder through precise control of electronic structure through manipulating backbone and side chain structure. This project will provide new methodologies to quantitatively measure chain conformation in CPs, which is vital for further advancements, understanding underlying structure-function relationships that lead to intermediate and strongly-correlated structures in emerging CP materials, discovering new phenomena, improving device performance, and creating new energy-related technologies.