Structure and stability of multicomponent polymer mixtures by novel combinatorial approaches

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Department of Chemical Engineering


The aim of this project is to develop, validate, and demonstrate a methodology for high-throughput mapping of the stability and structural evolution of complex polymer mixtures. Our motivation lies in formulation science which makes ubiquitous use of multicomponent mixtures whose comprehensive characterisation with conventional techniques is unfeasible. The project will involve three major tasks: (i) Creation of multicomponent discrete polymer libraries; (ii) Implementation of optical screening tools (turbidity and scattering) and automated data analysis; and (iii) Undertaking comprehensive experimental studies of two outstanding problems in polymer mixture thermodynamics, namely the effects of model block copolymer and nanoparticles on the phase behaviour and separation dynamics. A dedicated PhD student will work on the project along with the principal investigator; the project duration will be 36 months and the funding requested from EPSRC is 119,990. This proposal is submitted under the First Grant scheme.
Description We have investigated the phase behaviour of binary and multicomponent polymer mixtures and nanocomposites. Specifically, we studied polymer-polymer and polymer-nanoparticle mixtures, including fullerenes and silica nanoparticles. We have developed methods for the rapid formulation of mixtures and detection of phase boundaries, using optical and scattering methods. We have established the potential and limitations of this approach and determined the phase behaviour and morphology of key mixtures and composites. In particular, polymer-fullerene thin film mixtures yielded insight into the structure formation of composites relevant for organic electronics and solar cells.
Exploitation Route The high-throughput approaches developed could be employed by a range of industries and researchers interested in the thermodynamics and structure formation of polymeric mixtures, including the formulations, personal care, coatings, paints, plastics, automotive and composites, and structured products industries. In particular, the work on fullerene-polymer mixtures can (and has already partly) be transferred to the development of organic electronics.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Transport

Description The research award had two main outputs: 1) methods developed for mapping thermodynamics and phase behaviour and 2) knowledge generated for model polymer and nanoparticle systems. The research was extensively published. Specifically, for polymer-fullerene mixtures, the outputs have been employed to engineer and fabricate solar cells with increased performance and durability.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Electronics,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description Organic Electronics 
Organisation Imperial College London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Mapping of phase behaviour of polymer-fullerene composites and thin films; light processing
Collaborator Contribution Fabrication and measurement of solar cells
Impact Several high impact publications applying polymer-fullerene phase behaviour to solar cells Z Li, H. C. Wong, Z, Huang, H. Zhong, C. H. Tan, W. C. Tsoi, J. S. Kim, J. R. Durrant, and J. T. Cabral "Performance Enhancement of fullerene-based solar cells by light processing" Nat. Comms. 4, 2227 (2013) H. C. Wong, Z. Li, C. H. Tan, H. Zhong, Z. Huang, H. Bronstein, I. McCulloch, J. T. Cabral, J. R. Durrant, "Morphological Stability and Performance of Polymer-Fullerene Solar Cells Under Thermal Stress - the Impact of Photo-Induced PC60BM Oligomerisation", ACS Nano 8, 1297-1308 (2014) B.C. Schroder, Z. Li, M. A. Brady, G. C. Faria, R. S. Ashraf, C. J. Takacs, J. S. Cowart, D. T. Duong, K. H. Chiu, C.H. Tang, J. T. Cabral, A. Salleo, M. L. Chabinyc, J. R. Durrant, I. McCulloch, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. (2014)
Start Year 2010