Novel N-heterocyclic carbene architectures for the synthesis and application of structurally dynamic materials
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The recent development of materials with autonomous repair capabilities has opened an exciting new field of polymer science expected to impact nearly every facet of modern society. Similar to natural systems, these "self-healing" materials sense when their structural integrity has been compromised (e.g., due to wear or damage) and respond with a viable repair mechanism. Despite the extraordinary number of successes and advances in this area, a means to ascertain instantaneous knowledge of a material's structural integrity, and more importantly, when it has been compromised, remains a considerable challenge in current systems and materials. To address this challenge, we report recent efforts toward the development of an electronically conductive material that is structurally dynamic and responds to various types of external stimuli. In particular, we have developed new synthetic methodology to prepare a variety of organometallic polymers containing a novel benzobisimidazolylidene or bis(benzoimidazolylidene) ligand, which is comprised of two linearly opposed N-heterocyclic carbenes (NHCs) annulated to a common linker, and various types of transition metals in the polymer's main-chain. Using this approach, polymers with molecular weights up to 10⁶ Da were prepared and cast into robust thin films. Using four-point probe technique, the inherent conductivities of these materials were found to be on the order of 10⁻³ S/cm. Secondly, the dynamics of these polymers were probed in solution using gel permeation chromatography. At specific cross-linker loadings, thermally-responsive gels were obtained. Collectively, these experiments suggested that the essential features for a thermally-responsive, structurally dynamic, conjugated organometallic polymer were developed. Efforts toward probing their ability to display self-healing characteristics in the solid-state are described. The inherent conductivity of the polymers permitted the healing behavior of thin films to be observed by scanning electron microscopy in the absence of a dopant. Long range goals of implementing and utilizing these materials in electronic circuits and other advanced devices are also described. An additional approach towards a dynamic material utilized functional imidazolium-based ionic liquids. A series of functional ionic liquids were produced by appending N-substituents containing pendant halides, alkynes, azides, furans and maleimides. These functional groups allowed for polymerization and crosslinking. The physical properties of the imidazolium monomers, as well as the resulting polymers, could be tuned by altering the anion. When a trifunctional monomer is used in conjunction with the polymerization of difunctional ionic liquids an insoluble crosslinked material forms. This behavior, combined with NHCs ability to bind transition metals as ligands and catalyze various organic transformations, provides potential for this system to be used as a method for catalyst recovery and ultimately catalyst recycling.