Electrofunctional polymers refer to functional materials with electrical behavior under the action of the environment, which have the advantages of low density, low price, and processability compared to metals. The development of electrofunctional polymers has led to the emergence of conductive polymers, polymer electrolytes, and polymer electrodes. With electrofunctional polymers, the molecular interaction parameters can be adjusted in situ by the use of electrical stimulation to induce redox reactions within the polymer. The injection or removal of charge and the subsequent changes in chemical or physical properties of the polymer significantly alter the ability of the material to interact with other chemical species.
Figure 1. Electrofunctional polymers
Conductive polymers are the most widely used class of electrofunctional polymers. They exhibit versatile and unique properties due to their multi-component synergistic effects. Conductive polymers are mainly used in the following fields.
Figure 2. Application of conductive polymers
Energy has become the most important global concern because fossil fuels are going to be exhausted. Usually, conducting polymer nanostructures have higher specific capacitance values and can be an alternate in the development of the next generation energy storage devices. For instance, six polythiophene and poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT)-based conducting polymers with a diethyl terephthalate unit covalently bound to the polymer chain by various linkers have been synthesized and characterized electrochemically . It has been reported that the combination of high-capacity redox active pendant groups and conducting polymers provides materials with high charge storage capacity which is suitable for electrical energy storage applications.
Figure 3. Structure of the monomers and the corresponding conducting redox polymers
Conducting polymers have been widely explored as chemical sensors, optical sensors and biosensors because their electrical and optical properties can be reversible changed by doping/depoing processes. Conducting polymers can be used for creation of each component of a chemosensor including a receptor layer, a transducer, a protective coating or even an electronic circuit for data proceeding. A new multidetection DNA biosensor has been developed using the electrochemical properties of cylinder-shaped conducting polypyrrole grown on miniaturized graphite electrodes. Using this biosensor, a good selectivity between Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Hepatitis B Virus targets was obtained .
Figure 4. Cylinder-shaped conducting polypyrrole for labelless electrochemical multidetection of DNA
Palladium-tin catalysts prepared with polyaniline and polypyrrole were active for the reduction of nitrates. In addition, the use of polymer support improves the selectivity of the catalyst toward nitrogen formation compared to a classical support, and avoids the apparition of intermediate nitrite .
Figure 5. Effect of the Sn content on the activity (histograms) and selectivity at 100% of nitrate conversion (lines) for nitrate reduction
Conductive polymers facilitate the formation of smart nanopatterns for realizing nanodevices in the fields of energy, electronics, the environment, and healthcare. Incorporating metals, semiconductors, carbon nanomaterials and insulating polymers into conducting polymers to form ID nanocomposites may affect the conductivity of conducting polymers, which is potentially applicable in light emitting diodes, transistors, memory and photovoltaic devices.
Most conducting polymers offer unique advantages in biomedical applications, including biocompatibility, ability to entrap and controllably release biological molecules, ability to transfer charge from a biochemical reaction, and the potential to easily alter the electrical, chemical, physical, and other properties of the conducting polymers to better suit the nature of the specific application. These unique characteristics are useful in many biomedical applications. The fabrication of polymer nanofibers (i.e., electrospinning of blended polymer solution consisting of conducting polymer and other kind of biocompatible polymers) produces conductive composite nanofibers with high surface area, high porosity, good biocompatibility, and biodegradability, which have found use in tissue engineering.
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Yang, L.; et al. Effect of the linker in terephthalate-functionalized conducting redox polymers. Electrochim Acta. 2016, 222: 149-155.
Dhand, C.; et al. Polyaniline nanotubes for impedimetric triglyceride detection. Electrochem. Commun. 2009, 11: 1482-1486.
Ibrahim, D.; et al. Palladium-tin catalysts on conducting polymers for nitrate removal. Applied Catalysis B: Environmental. 2009, 93: 50-55.