Unraveling Structure-Property Relationships in Polymer Blends for Intelligent Materials Design

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Unraveling Structure-Property Relationships in Polymer Blends for Intelligent Materials Design

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Block polymers provide an accessible route to structured, composite materials by combining two or more components with disparate mechanical, chemical, and electrical properties into a single bulk material with nanoscale domains. However, the characteristic lengthscale of these systems is limited, and the choice of components is restricted to those that are able to undergo microstructural ordering at accessible temperatures. This thesis details routes to overcoming these limitations through the addition of a lithium salt, a blend of homopolymers, or both. Chapter 2 describes a study wherein complex sphere phases such as the Frank-Kasper sigma phase can be observed in otherwise disordered asymmetric block polymers through the addition of a lithium salt. Chapter 3 discusses the development and characterization of a ternary polymer blend of an AB diblock copolymer and A and B homopolymers doped with a lithium salt. Detailed characterization showed that doping blends that are otherwise disordered with lithium salt induced microstructural ordering and largely recovers the phase behavior of traditional ternary polymer blends. A systematic study of the ionic conductivity of the blends at a fixed salt concentration demonstrates that, at a given composition, disordered, yet highly structured blends consistently exhibit better conductivity than polycrystalline morphologies with long range order. Chapter 4 extends the methodology of Chapter 3 and details a systematic study of the effects of cross-linker concentration on the performance of polymer electrolyte membranes produced via polymerization-induced microphase separation that exhibit a highly structured, globally disordered microstructure. Finally, Chapter 5 details efforts to develop a water filtration membrane using a polyethylene template derived from a polymeric bicontinuous microemulsion. Throughout all of this work, the goal is to better understand structure-property relationships at the molecular level in order to ultimately inform design criteria for materials where simultaneous control over morphology and mechanical, chemical, or electrical properties is important.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. 2016. Major: Chemical Engineering. Advisor: Timothy Lodge. 1 computer file (PDF); 289 pages.

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Irwin, Matthew. (2016). Unraveling Structure-Property Relationships in Polymer Blends for Intelligent Materials Design. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/182815.

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