In the search for novel smart multifunctional liquid crystalline materials, we report the synthesis, thermal and structural characterisation, and the conductivity, of a set of new block and statistical copolymers, containing light-responsive mesogenic groups (MeOAzB), polar sulfonic acids (AMPS), and methyl(methacrylate) groups (MMA). By using a cascade of reversible addition-fragmentation chain polymerisations, RAFT, we have tailored different side-chain polymeric structures by controlling monomer composition (MeOAzB/AMPS/MMA) and configuration. We have yielded simultaneous liquid crystalline behaviour and appreciable conductivity in polymers with low concentrations of polar acid groups, by the formation of smectic phases in narrow aggregates. The light-responsiveness of the polymers, via reversible trans-to-cis photoisomerization of azobenzene groups, and the local activation of conductivity at relatively low temperatures, opens the possibility to prepare polymer electrolytes for energy conversion and storage, whose conductivity could be controlled and optimised by external stimuli, including light irradiation.
Bibliographical noteFunding: S.M.A. would like to acknowledge Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education, for the grant number 600- IRMI/FRGS 5/3 (374/2019); N.F.K.A. and A.M.F. would like to thank the Royal Academy of Engineering, U.K.; for the grant RCPA516/4/61, from the Newton Research Collaboration Programme. A.M.F. also acknowledges the University of Aberdeen, for the award of the grant SF10192, the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, for the Research Incentive Grant RIG008586, and the Royal Society, for the Research Grant RGS\R1\201397. T.S.V. would like to acknowledge University of Malaya for the grant number RP038B-17AFR.
- liquid crystalline polymers
- light-responsive materials
- ionic conductivity
- polymer electrolytes