Rigid rod polymers are a class of high-performance materials made up of a conjugated, heteroaromatic backbone that have applications spanning engineering and electronics. Unfortunately, due to their chain stiffness, thermal recycling and solution-state processing of these materials can be very difficult. My research is focused on incorporating the ‘shape shifting’ small molecule bullvalene into rigid rod polymer chains to modulate the polymer physical properties while maintaining the desired thermal and chemical stability. Bullvalene undergoes rapid Cope rearrangements at room temperature to access 1.2 million degenerate isomers. Within a polymer chain, bullvalene leads to a dense, coiled chain conformation due to an ensemble of different isomers across the polymer chain. We plan on incorporating bullvalene into a variety of rigid rod polymers to access a novel class of flexible, conjugated materials for easier processing in applications including solar cells and OLED’s.
Advisor: Matthew Golder – Chemistry