Mixed Ionic-Electronic Conductors
Mixed ionic-electronic conductors made from large polymer molecules and liquid crystals can provide distinct, dual pathways for transporting charged atoms (ions) and electrons. Combining two kinds of conductivity within the same molecule, mixed ionic-electronic conductors exhibit a variety of features needed for future robotics and energy storage and production. They also possess unexpected synergy between conducting phases. Traditional methods for developing and characterizing mixed ionic-electronic conductors, however, are slow and cumbersome.
Christopher K. Ober, Materials Science and Engineering, along with Fernando A. Escobedo, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering—and colleagues Christine K. Luscombe (University of Washington) and Paul F. Nealey (University of Chicago)—is developing machine learning methods to accelerate the discovery process. The project employs a dual iterative cycle to develop, study, and characterize the phase behavior and transport dynamics of new materials. An algorithm will propose successive generations of candidate materials, and a neural network will correlate chemical groups and structures with ionic and electronic conductivity.
The researchers aim to illuminate the role that structure plays in the phase behavior and charge transport properties of mixed ionic-electronic conductors and to create new applications for these materials in energy storage, sensing, and robotics. The project will also generate data, materials design, and machine learning software that will be accessible to the broader scientific and industrial community.