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Percolated Ionic Aggregate Morphologies and Decoupled Ion Transport in Precise Sulfonated Polymers Synthesized by Ring-Opening Metathesis Polymerization

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journal contribution
posted on 15.10.2020, 13:09 by Benjamin A. Paren, Bryce A. Thurston, William J. Neary, Aaron Kendrick, Justin G. Kennemur, Mark J. Stevens, Amalie L. Frischknecht, Karen I. Winey
We describe a set of precise single-ion conducting polymers that form self-assembled percolated ionic aggregates in glassy polymer matrices and have decoupled transport of metal cations. These precise single-ion conductors (SICs), synthesized by a scalable ring-opening metathesis polymerization, consist of a polyethylene backbone with a sulfonated phenyl group pendant on every fifth carbon and are fully neutralized by a counterion X+ (Li+, Na+, or Cs+). Experimental X-ray scattering measurements and fully atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) simulations are in good agreement. The MD simulations show that the ionic groups nanophase separate from the polymer backbone to form percolating ionic aggregates. Using graph theory, we find that within the Li+- and Na+-neutralized polymers the percolated aggregates exhibit planar and ribbon-like configurations at intermediate length scales, while the percolated aggregates within the Cs+-neutralized polymers are more isotropic. Electrical impedance spectroscopy measurements show that the ionic conductivities exhibit Arrhenius behavior, with conductivities of 10–7 to 10–6 S/cm at 180 °C. In the MD simulations, the cations move between sulfonate groups in the percolated aggregates, larger ions travel further, and overall cations travel further than the polymer backbones, indicating a decoupled ion-transport mechanism. Thus, the percolated ionic aggregates in these polymers can serve as pathways to facilitate decoupled ion motion through a glassy polymer matrix.

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