January 31, 2023
Journal Article

JOINT APOINTEE: Hydration of a side-chain-free n-type semiconducting ladder polymer driven by electrochemical doping


We study the organic electrochemical transistors (OECTs) performance of the ladder polymer, poly(benzimidazobenzophenanthroline) (BBL) in an attempt to better understand how an apparently hydrophobic side-chain-free polymer is able to operate as an OECT with favorable redox kinetics in an aqueous environment. We examine two BBLs of different molecular masses from different sources. Both BBLs show significant film swelling during the initial reduction step. By combining electrochemical quartz crystal microbalance (eQCM) gravimetry, in-operando atomic force microscopy (AFM), and both ex-situ and in-operando grazing incidence wide-angle x-ray scattering (GIWAXS), we provide a detailed structural picture of the electrochemical charge injection process in BBL in the absence of any hydrophilic side-chains. Compared with ex-situ measurements, inoperando GIWAXS shows both more swelling upon electrochemical doping than has previously been recognized, and less contraction upon dedoping. The data show that BBL films undergo an irreversible hydration driven by the initial electrochemical doping cycle with significant water retention and lamellar expansion that persists across subsequent oxidation/reduction cycles. This swelling creates a hydrophilic environment that facilitates the subsequent fast hydrated ion transport in the absence of the hydrophilic side-chains used in many other polymer systems. Due to its rigid ladder backbone and absence of hydrophilic side-chains, the primary BBL water uptake does not significantly degrade the crystalline order, and the original dehydrated, unswelled state can be recovered after drying. The combination of doping induced hydrophilicity and robust crystalline order leads to efficient ionic transport and good stability.

Published: January 31, 2023


Guo J., L.Q. Flagg, D.K. Tran, S.E. Chen, R. Li, N.B. Kolhe, and R. Giridharagopal, et al. 2023. JOINT APOINTEE: Hydration of a side-chain-free n-type semiconducting ladder polymer driven by electrochemical doping. Journal of the American Chemical Society 143, no. 3:1866–1876. PNNL-SA-179365. doi:10.1021/jacs.2c11468

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