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Developments towards novel dense polymer brushes for device applications

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posted on 17.06.2015, 11:08 by Thomas Constable
The research project aimed to synthesise semiconducting polymer brushes (polymer chains densely grafted to a surface) utilising simple and efficient organic chemistry methods, with a view to use in molecular-level electronic applications. Conjugated polymers were initially chosen for their ability to conduct electrical charge along a polymer chain by facilitating electron transfer between π-bonds. Polymers also aimed to be living , which could allow for further chain growth at a later point in time. This could lead to the production of various useful brush block co-polymers, with different blocks (or layers) of polymers having different chemical, structural and electronic properties. Initially, several syntheses towards monomers for poly(phenyl isocyanide) and poly(quinoxaline-2,3-diyl) were undertaken with limited success. Attention was turned to the synthesis of poly(thiophene)s by Kumada catalyst-transfer polymerisation (KCTP), again with varying success. After this, ring-opening metathesis polymerisation (ROMP) was explored as a possible avenue. The successful synthesis of several cyclopropenes for use as monomers was carried out. However, the ROMP of these monomers failed. ROMP of unsubstituted norbornene was successful. XPS studies suggested that vapour deposition of SAMs (Self Assembled Monolayers) gave homogenous monolayers. Solution-phase depositions appeared prone to inhomogeneous multilayer deposition. Vapour deposited SAMs gave better grafting densities at lower deposition pressures, leading to thicker polymer brushes. Finally, atom transfer radical polymerisation (ATRP) methods have been investigated. ARGET-ATRP was determined as the favoured method as it uses lower quantities of copper. Functionalised monomers for ATRP were synthesised, but homopolymers of these polyaromatic monomers have been difficult to synthesise by both copper-mediated ATRP and AIBN initiation. Polymer brushes and polymer brush diblocks of post-polymerisation modified PHEMA and PDMAEMA have been successfully grown on silicon wafers and glass slides, with a view to using the diblocks of these polymers as effective bulk heterojunction photovoltaic devices. The kinetics of the growth of both polymers by the ARGET and ATRP methods were studied to determine the degree to which each polymerisation is living; to determine if diblock growth would be possible. PHEMA brushes were successfully modified with a range of polyaromatic acid chlorides. Focussing on anthracene (which has excellent fluorescence properties, displaying a clear ability to move electrons between energy levels), this attachment was further confirmed by a range of techniques, before successfully growing a brush diblock of the unfunctionalised and functionalised polymers.


Loughborough University Materials Research School



  • Science


  • Chemistry


© Thomas Constable

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.



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