4 universities collaborate to synthesize new materials, nanoscale devices

Apr 24, 2007

The Army Research Office has awarded a potentially $7.5 million Multi-University Research Initiative (MURI) grant to scientists from Virginia Tech, the University of Pennsylvanian, Pennsylvania State University, and Drexel University to develop electromechanical devices and high-performance membranes using ionic liquids.

Virginia Tech chemistry professor Tim Long and University of Pennsylvania professor of materials science and engineering Karen I. Winey are co-directors of the Ionic Liquids in Electro-Active Devices (ILEAD) MURI. Long is principal investigator.

Ionic liquids (ILs) are relatively large organic salts that offer charge and liquidity at room temperature. Some ILs are touted as safe, environmentally-friendly solvents. They are also useful in electrically conductive membranes, thermally stable at high temperatures, and do not evaporate at normal conditions. With today’s advanced ability to manipulate molecular structure and design unique molecules, ILs’ advantages are being explored for emerging applications. "The Army needs a myriad of electronic devices that take advantage of the potential synergy of these unique properties," Long said.

The team is creating synthetic ILs and evaluating their performance in sophisticated electronic devices. "Our challenge is to synthesize high performance materials with a particular device in mind. Then the device is truly created from the molecular-scale up," said Long.

The group will integrate ILs into membranes to create thin films to perform various functions, such as membranes that can transport or filter small molecules. "Applications include fuel cell membranes, where protons are transported across a membrane to create electricity. One advantage over existing fuel cell materials is that the IL will not evaporate, so future membranes will operate at higher temperatures with higher efficiency."

Another application could be stimuli-responsive materials for micro sensors and smart clothes, said Long. "The material would breathe and wick moisture away, but quickly close up in response to a chemical or biological threat. Such a suit could be used by the military, by a firefighter, or in an operating room."

Membranes can also be created that will bend, stretch, or change shape in response to a low voltage, like an artificial muscle.

And ILs can be used in coatings or as part of structures. The team will look at creating new polymeric materials that can be charged or conductive, Long said.

"ILs will serve as the building blocks for elastomers, fibers, and rigid plastics for such uses as protective gear and multilayer assemblies," Long said. "We are recharging a field that has been around for a couple of decades because now we are challenged with applications that require IL performance."

The MURI is charged to provide fundamental enabling science for future Army technologies.

Senior researchers will focus in three areas. Long and Virginia Tech chemistry professor Harry W. Gibson will work on synthesis of ILs and charged polymers. Winey and Penn State professor of materials science and engineering Ralph H. Colby will do mechanical, electrical, and morphological characterization. Yossef Elabd, professor of chemical and biological engineering at Drexel University; Virginia Tech physics professor Randy Heflin; and Qiming Zhang, distinguished professor of electrical engineering at Penn State, will research performance of actuators, electro-optical devices, and membranes. Virginia Tech and Drexel are both Army Materials Centers of Excellence.

Source: Virginia Tech

Explore further: Demystifying nanocrystal solar cells

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Team advances fuel cell car technology

Jan 29, 2015

Dr. Yossef Elabd, professor in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University, has developed two fuel cell vehicle platforms for both present day enhancements and future innovation.

Recommended for you

Demystifying nanocrystal solar cells

Jan 28, 2015

ETH researchers have developed a comprehensive model to explain how electrons flow inside new types of solar cells made of tiny crystals. The model allows for a better understanding of such cells and may ...

Researchers use oxides to flip graphene conductivity

Jan 26, 2015

Graphene, a one-atom thick lattice of carbon atoms, is often touted as a revolutionary material that will take the place of silicon at the heart of electronics. The unmatched speed at which it can move electrons, ...

Researchers make magnetic graphene

Jan 26, 2015

Graphene, a one-atom thick sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice, has many desirable properties. Magnetism alas is not one of them. Magnetism can be induced in graphene by doping it with magnetic ...

The latest fashion: Graphene edges can be tailor-made

Jan 23, 2015

Theoretical physicists at Rice University are living on the edge as they study the astounding properties of graphene. In a new study, they figure out how researchers can fracture graphene nanoribbons to get ...

Nanotechnology changes behavior of materials

Jan 23, 2015

One of the reasons solar cells are not used more widely is cost—the materials used to make them most efficient are expensive. Engineers are exploring ways to print solar cells from inks, but the devices ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.