Synthesis, characterization and applications of ionic supramolecular assemblies
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Supramolecular ionic assemblies not only provide alternatives to conventional polymers, but also introduce unique and interesting functions for the design of "smart" polymeric assemblies for use in a number of fields due to their programmable and reversible properties. Research in the area has led to an understanding of the connection between molecular contributions and macroscopic properties, as well as a range of applications from material processing/manufacuturing to energy transfer and storage. To this end, we have developed a library of charged building blocks based on ionic liquids to create functional supramolecular ionic assemblies. The polymeric ionic assemblies prepared from a di-phosphonium and poly (acrylic acid) were first studied and found to have the potential to be utilized as "smart" materials due to their ability to reversibly respond to stimuli such as temperature and pressure. With the interest of elucidating the molecular contributions to the bulk macroscopic material properties, six supramolecular assemblies were sequentially characterized in terms of thermal, rheological and X-ray studies. The effect of side alkyl chain was found to dramatically change the material properties. A second type of supramolecular assembly was investigated based on a poly-phosphonium ionic liquid, which was complexed with a number of carboxylic acids. The material properties were easily manipulated from a sticky fiber to a brittle solid by changing the composition of the carboxylic acid. A crosslinked supramolecular assembly combining ionic interactions and weak covalent bonds, specifically disulfide bonds, was next designed and characterized. The network properties could be switched between "on and off" using mild conditions. The polymeric ionic networks and their building block ionic liquids are also of interest as safe electrolytes in energy storage devices due to their non-flammability, non-volatility, etc. We have identified one ionic liquid with superior thermal stability, high lithium salt solubility, and good conductivity in a lithium metal battery. The prototype battery performed safely at 100 degree celsius for more than 30 days. Thermally stable Li metal batteries are of interest in the oil industry for downhole applications. These studies were extended to an ionic polymer that exhibits a lamellar structure as a new polymer electrolyte.