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Conjugated Polyelectrolytes as Water Processable Precursors to Aqueous Compatible Redox Active Polymers for Diverse Applications: Electrochromism, Charge Storage, and Biocompatible Organic Electronics

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journal contribution
posted on 10.05.2017, 00:00 by James F. Ponder, Anna M. Österholm, John R. Reynolds
An organic soluble precursor polymer was prepared by direct (hetero)­arylation polymerization of 3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene (EDOT) with a solubilizing, 3,4-propylenedioxythiophene (ProDOT) derivative bearing ester-functionalized side chains. Chemical defunctionalization of the polymer, using base to hydrolyze the esters, yields a conjugated polyelectrolyte (CPE) that is readily soluble in water. This aqueous soluble CPE can then be processed using high-throughput coating methods from water-based inks. Postprocessing functionalization of the polymer film using dilute acid creates a solvent resistant film that is compatible with both organic and aqueous electrolyte systems for redox switching. The introduction of an unfunctionalized EDOT unit results in a soluble polymer that has a low oxidation potential and that is highly electroactive and pseudocapacitive in a wide voltage range (2 V in propylene carbonate-based electrolytes and 1.55 V in aqueous electrolytes) making it an attractive material for lightweight and flexible supercapacitors. Films of this copolymer demonstrate exceptionally rapid redox switching (10 V/s) and higher mass capacitance in aqueous electrolyte solutions than in organic solutions. Supercapacitors incorporating the solvent resistant copolymer exhibit symmetric charge/discharge behavior at currents of up to 20 A/g (1 s discharge) and are able to maintain >75% of the initial capacitance over 175 000 cycles using 0.5 M NaCl/water as the device electrolyte. Rapid electrochromic switching (∼0.2 s) from vibrant blue to colorless is also maintained in this salt–water electrolyte. The versatility of this polymer is further shown in a series of organic and aqueous electrolyte systems, including biologically compatible electrolytes (NaCl/water, Ringer’s solution, and human serum) and even sport drinks (Gatorade and Powerade), demonstrating the robustness of this polymer to differing ionic conditions. Based on these results, it is apparent that this polymer and similar systems have great potential in multiple electrochemical applications such as electrochromic devices, supercapacitors, and biocompatible devices.