Research in Tom Smith’s imaging materials laboratory at the Rochester Institute of Technology centers around the design and synthesis of functional polymers. Our objective is to create intelligent, sensorial materials that exhibit significant electronic, photonic, magnetic, redox, or ferroelectric response characteristics.
Block copolymers that facilitate incorporation of functional groups in macromolecular systems with control of architecture and tertiary structure are the heart of synthetic activities. Much of this work involves the synthesis of “macromolecular complexons”, polymers that bind ionic salts, and sequester dipolar organic moieties.
Sequestration of such species in macromolecular solid solutions and block copolymer composites can provide a wide variety of novel photoactive and electroactive systems. Additional materials that are being studied include organometallic polymers and nanoscopic organic/inorganic polymer composites. The formation of nanoparticulate monodisperse colloidal sols with the agency of functional polymers is an area of continuing activity.
The use of electric field to control morphology and optoelectronic characteristics in block copolymer and polymer composite systems lies at the heart of an initiative to create materials for dynamic control of refractive index.
The group is also working to prepare “model” and “functional” proton exchange fuel cell membranes. Model materials are being derived from copolymers of 4,5-vinylimidazole. The functional membranes are being prepared as bicontinuous nanocomposites of PVF2 with a variety of proton conductive materials.