The Hunt for New Energy-Storage Materials
The hunt is on for new materials and devices that address and improve needs ranging from the harvesting and storage of energy to sensing and detection. Christopher K. Ober, Materials Science and Engineering, and Fernando A. Escobedo, Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, are leading an effort to combine, in a single system, both major types of conductivity (ionic and electronic conduction) to create new, effective materials.
With collaborators at the University of Chicago and the University of Washington, the team is modeling self-assembly behavior of certain molecules—rod-charged coil block copolymers and bolaamphiphiles. With a better understanding of the characteristics of the resulting dual-conduction path, self-assembling materials, the team will design and synthesize new materials with controlled architecture and behavior and assess their potential for charge transport. They’ll also evaluate the performance of prototype devices.
To enable synergistic modeling-experimental interactions, the research involves two iterating cycles. The first cycle entails using model-based morphological predictions to guide the selection of new polymers for synthesis and processing. The second cycle entails characterization of conductivity and construction of device prototypes, providing data that will guide the development of new models. Researchers hope this work will not only shed light onto fundamental physical questions but also lead to new applications with exquisitely precise manipulation of characteristic dimensions, chemistry, and charge density.