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Synthesis and Characterization of Poly(3-alkylthiophene)-containing Block Copolymers


Conjugated polymers have been widely studied for their use in lightweight, flexible, and solution-processable electronic devices. However, the optimization of such polymer-based devices has been largely Edisonian in nature due to both a poor understanding of and an inability to control the complex hierarchical structure observed in semicrystalline polymers. In this thesis, we show that simple chemical modifications to commonly-studied conjugated polymers can have a large effect on the observed structure ranging from the unit cell to that on the order of device features. In particular, the self-assembly of block copolymers in which one of the components is optoelectronically-active is presented as a facile method to obtain nanostructured materials. For the work in this thesis, we will focus on poly(3-alkylthiophenes), a widely studied class of conjugated polymers due to their favorable optoelectronic properties, high solubility in organic solvents, and susceptibility to simple chemical modification.

Although the synthesis of conjugated block copolymers has been presented in the past, complexities arising from crystallization of the conjugated moiety have dominated the observed solid state morphologies. Specifically, the crystallization of the semicrystalline block dictates the block copolymer microphase separation, a well-known phenomenon in the literature for non-conjugated semicrystalline block copolymers, which has resulted in solid state morphologies that do not differ significantly from that of the semiconducting homopolymer. To address this, we first show that the side chain chemistry controls the thermal transitions and optoelectronic properties in poly(3-alkylthiophenes). Such control over the crystallization kinetics provides an experimentally convenient approach to investigate the importance of the crystalline structure over a wide range of length scales on the optoelectronic properties. Furthermore, the ability to control the thermal transition temperatures can be used to directly manipulate, and thereby balance, the competition between the driving forces for crystallization and self-assembly. As evidence, the nanoscale structure is shown to be directly controlled via synthesis of block copolymers in which one block is the low melting temperature semiconducting polymer, poly(3-(2-ethylhexyl)thiophene). A wide range of morphologies with curved interfaces are observed which, in the past, have been precluded by the crystallization of poly(3-alkylthiophenes) with unbranched aliphatic side chains such as poly(3-hexylthiophene). Importantly, confinement of the conjugated polymer to nanoscale domains is not detrimental to the crystallinity or to charge transport over device-scale dimensions. Additionally, this approach is shown to be effective for a number of different chemistries providing a flexible methodology for obtaining periodic, semiconducting domains on the nanoscale. Together, these simple synthetic strategies can be used to tune the morphology of various length scales of thin film active layers and provide synthetic rules for design of novel semiconducting polymer systems.

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