Avant Garde Approaches to Processable Multiscale Conjugated Polymer Hybrid Materials with Enhanced Electronic Properties and Water-Repellency (AGAPE).
01 Dec 2013 30 Nov 2015

This project aims at circumventing the most severe flaws of Conjugated Polymers (CPs hereafter), namely their processability and stability, while not compromising or even improving their electronic performance. Approaches are presented that will produce performing, water-repellent and processable CPs to feed the emergent Hydrophobic Electronics. A procedure will be developed to allow the CPs grafting on OH-containing nanoparticles profiting of the applicant’s knowledge on NHC catalysts, acquired along his 2-year stage at Prof. Navarro’s Laboratory in the USA. Nanoparticles are selected to fulfill the double purpose of i) making the solution/suspensions of CPs thixotropic, thus easing processability, and ii) making the final material’s surface rough and so water-repellent. These hybrids will be incorporated into a third component (a polymer, solvent or CPs solution) to produce multiscale water-repellent CPs, by taking advantage of the Host Group on surface modification, polymer compounding and superhydrophobicity. This project lies at the interfaces of Polymer Chemistry, Catalysis and Surface Chemistry on one hand, and requires the joint collaboration of Engineering, Chemical Physics and Pure Organic Chemistry. The rare combination of the Applicant’s and Host Group’s expertise allows to reasonably expecting the successful design of novel materials with exciting new properties. 
Polymers have been traditionally the source of plastic or elastic materials, the strong points are toughness, lightness and processability. The origin of such properties is their chemical structure, based on long, flexible chains of mostly C-H-O. Chemical departures from such basic scheme may provide functional materials but almost always at the expense of losing lightness, toughness and processability, in many cases to the point in which the performance of the new material becomes compromised. In particular, endowing electric/electronic/photo properties requires the introduction groups bearing π-electron that will make the chains possess a rigid backbone and occasionally a polar nature, both features certainly leading to a loss in toughness and processability. Nonetheless, CPs have been intensively studied for over 35 years, as they have the potential to become outstanding materials once their inherent intractability (processability) and high sensibility to light, heat and water are solved. This Project proposes to produce materials where the electronic properties rely on structures which are not the same as those being responsible for the processability and the water-repellency of the material, or in other words, producing adequately designed multiscale materials. This methodological principle guides the whole of the proposal.
The outcome of this Proposal will then be a set of new materials with the following characteristics: i) electronic or plasmonic properties arising from their chemical functionality; CPs or metallic nanoparticles (Au or Ag), respectively, ii) superhydrophobic behaviour imparted by a surface rough at the nano/meso scale (dual size roughness) which will be achieved by a combination of nanofibers (sepiolite -S-, microfibrillated cellulose -MFC- or nanocrystalline cellulose -NCC-) and nanosilica (A200), iii) improved processability thanks to the action of thixotropic nanofibers (S, MFC and NCC) in the material formulation. 
This proposal is a serious and solid effort to put together the Hosts expertise on Polymer Nanocomposites, Thermal Stability, Surface Modification of Nanoparticles and Superhydrophobicity, particularly thixotropic nanofibers with or without metallic nanoparticles showing Surface Plasmon Resonance, with the knowledge acquired by the applicant along his 2-year stage at Prof. Navarro’s Laboratory in the USA on Catalysis and Cross-Coupling Reactions for the Synthesis of novel CPs with special electronic properties, to prepare a panoply of easily processable CP-based hybrid materials.