Advances in molecular design and synthesis of regioregular polythiophenes

  • Osaka I
  • Mccullough R
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Abstract

Regioregular poly(3-alkylthiophene)s (rrP3ATs) are an important class of pi-conjugated polymers that can be used in plastic electronic devices such as solar cells and field-effect transistors. rrP3ATs can be ordered in three dimensions: conformational ordering along the backbone, pi-stacking of flat polymer chains, and lamellar stacking between chains. All of these features lead to the excellent electrical properties of these materials. Creative molecular design and advanced synthesis are critical in controlling the properties of the materials as well as their device performance. This Account reports the advances in molecular design of new functional polythiophenes as well as the associated polymerization methods. Many functionalized regioregular polythiophenes have been designed and synthesized and show fascinating properties such as high conductivity, mobility, chemosensitivity, liquid crystallinity, or chirality. The methods for the synthesis of rrP3ATs are also applicable to other functional side chains. Di- and triblock copolymers consisting of rrP3AT and polyacrylate or polystyrene have also been successfully synthesized, which can facilitate the assembly of the polythiophene segments. The synthesis of rrP3ATs has evolved into a simple and economical system in which the synthesis can be carried out quickly at room temperature and is thus suitable for large-scale manufacturing. Intensive study has revealed that the regioregular polymerization of 3-alkylthiophenes proceeds by a chain-growth mechanism and can be made into a living system. This feature enables precise control of the molecular weight and facile end-group functionalization of the polymer chains, leading to tailor-made regioregular polythiophenes for specific applications. In addition, researchers have recently designed and synthesized regiosymmetric polythiophenesthese are regioregular but not coupled in a head-to-tail fashionby various methods. These reports indicate that these regiosymmetric polymers show very high mobilities when used in field-effect transistors due to their highly ordered structure. The remarkable performance of regioregular polythiophenes in recent years has allowed for the rapid development in printable electronics and seems destined to lead to further advances in this field.

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Authors

  • Itaru Osaka

  • Richard D. Mccullough

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