NSEF Forum Award Presentation: Nanoscale Organic Hybrid Materials
Polymer-nanoparticle composites are used in virtually every field of science and technology. When the particles approach nanometer dimensions, large interfacial regions are created, which present opportunities and challenges for both basic science and applications. In favorable situations, both the size and spatial distribution of these interfaces can be controlled to create new hybrid and nanoporous materials with physical and transport properties inaccessible in their pure constituents or in their conventionally prepared mixtures. This talk focuses on a particluar class of hybrid materials created through bottom-up synthesis of nanoparticles densely grafted with short polymer chains. At high grafting densities, these systems spontaneously form self-suspended suspensions in which each nanoparticle carries a share of the suspending polymeric fluid tethered to its surface. Consequences of this intimate coupling of a suspended and suspending material on nanocomposite structure, phase stability, and transport properties are explored in the talk. Because each hairy nanoparticle building block that constitutes a self-suspended suspension is itself a nanoscale hybrid, the materials provide convenient systems for studying confinement dynamics of polymers and flexible platforms for synthesis of nanoporous materials. Towards application of these hybrid materials in next-generation energy storage technologies, the talk will consider the stability of electrodeposition of metals in a structured electrolyte created by internalizing charges tethered to nanoparticles in the pore-space between self-suspended particles. Generalization of these ideas to create novel nanoporous electrolytes that stabilize electrodeposition of metals will be briefly discussed in the context of next-generation rechargeable battery technologies.