Project Duration: 2016-2018

Project Title
Modeling and Design Strategy of New Polymer Self-assemblies for Functional Membranes

University of Ulm (Germany)
Moscow State University (Russia)
IPREM/Pau Institute (France)

 This project focuses on the theoretical, computer simulation and  experimental development of novel technique for the production of  micro-structured block-copolymer films for functional membranes  fabrication (e.g. ion-exchange membranes (IEM)). The originality of the  approach is based on the one-stage synthesis of block-copolymer self-assemblies by means of emulsion controlled copolymerization of  oil-soluble monomers in aqueous solutions, driven by amphiphilic surface  active polymeric chain transfer agent, containing ionic groups (sulfonic  or carboxylic acid, quaternary amino, secondary and/or ternary amino  groups). The polymerization process will lead to the formation in-situ of  self-stabilized block-copolymer latex particles with a core-shell  structure, in which the hydrophobic blocks form stiff inner core and the  hydrophilic (ionic) blocks form the outer shell. Further deposition of  thus obtained dispersion on the substrate will allow producing of  micro-structured films in which the percolated channels of ionic blocks  fill space between hydrophobic domains. The proposed strategy may have  important consequences for several related problems in IEM membranes  development. For these materials a percolation of polar channels giving  rise to ion conductivity is often obtained by microphase separation in  block-copolymers melts. The direct formation of phase separated domains in  the course of the synthesis will enable to avoid a number of  labor-consuming steps that the conventional procedure of the development  of micro-structured membranes is comprised of. Besides, using of aqueous  media instead of organic one is ecologically safe and economically more  profitable. Combination of advanced synthesis strategies and predictive  theoretical/computational approaches, including analytical statistical  mechanical methods known in polymer physics, as well as atomistic and  mesoscopic molecular dynamics simulations will be applied for achievement  of the project objectives.