Project Duration: 2016-2018
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.