Design rules for flexible conductors: predicting chain conformations, entanglements, and liquid crystalline phases of conjugated polymers
Flexible electronic devices have the potential to transform our society, such as in distributed power, solid-state lighting, personal electronics, and biomedical devices. The objective of this program is to accelerate the development of conjugated polymers for flexible electronics. The project will generate tools to predict fundamental properties of conjugated polymers, such as the stiffness of the chain backbones, their ability to form liquid crystals, and the likelihood that chains will entangle, all from the chemical structure. As such, the combination of theory, simulation, and experiment will provide opportunities to refine design concepts in conjugated polymers and therefore create an accelerated materials design framework useful for both academic and industrial efforts. Beyond flexible electronics, developing a theoretical description for semiflexible polymers will be transformative across many applications of biopolymers, engineering thermoplastics, and liquid crystals. Furthermore, this program will create a pilot program aimed at improving the retention of students in STEM fields. Penn State's unique structure will be leveraged, where a large central campus is closely linked to smaller commonwealth campuses, to explore the use of remote research activities as a recruiting and retention tool.