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Suppression of Ionic Doping by Molecular Dopants in Conjugated Polymers for Improving Specificity and Sensitivity in Biosensing Applications

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journal contribution
posted on 25.09.2020, 20:05 by Hyun-June Jang, Yunjia Song, Justine Wagner, Howard E. Katz
Ionic doping effects in conjugated polymers often cause nonspecific signaling and a low selectivity of bioelectronic sensing. Using remote-gate field-effect transistor characterization of molecular and ionic doping in poly­(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT) and acid-functionalized polythiophene, poly­[3-(3-carboxypropyl) thiophene-2,5-diyl] (PT-COOH), we discovered that proton doping effects on the interfacial potential occurring in P3HT could be suppressed by sequentially doping P3HT by 2,3,5,6-tetrafluoro-7,7,8,8-tetracyanoquinodimethane (F4TCNQ). To be specific, intrinsic pH sensitivity shown by pure P3HT (18 mV/pH in a range from pH 3 to 9) was fully dissipated for doped P3HT:F4TCNQ. However, F4TCNQ sequential doping instead increases pH sensitivity of acid-functionalized polythiophene, PT-COOH (40 mV/pH), compared to that of a pure PT-COOH (30 mV/pH). Interactions between polythiophene backbone and side chains, which constrain the activity of COOH, are weakened by stronger F4TCNQ doping leaving behind responsive COOH groups exposed to aqueous solutions. This is supported by the reduced pH sensitivity of PT-COOH sequentially doped by a weaker dopant, tetracyanoethylene (TCNE) (21 mV/pH). Thus, doping is shown to stabilize a nonpolar conjugated polymer to pH-induced fluctuations on one hand, and to activate a COOH side chain to pH-induced response on the other.

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