Conjugated polymer helices

Conjugated polymer helicesPolymers having “conjugated structures”, allowing them to conduct electricity, hold great potential for flexible and ink-jet printable electronic devices and inexpensive plastic solar cells. Work by Hayward and Emrick in the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) on Polymers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has shown how to coax such polymers to twist into conducting wires thousands of times smaller than the twisted cables used in common electronic devices. These structures are based on polythiophenes, which tend to crystallize into ribbons only a few nanometers in thickness. Such crystalline nanostructures are important to determining the electronic properties of materials based on this polymer, and the ability to control their formation holds promise for improving the performance of devices. Remarkably, the inclusion of functional groups that bind salt ions leads to twisting of these nanowires into helices that join together into double helices, reminiscent of DNA, and larger bundles containing multiple strands. These materials provide opportunities to 1) study the still poorly understood driving forces for helical assembly, and 2) tune the electronic properties of conjugated polymers.