Stabilizing Polyaromatic Compounds using Targeted Polymeric Chemistries
Dispersion chemistry and the mechanisms of stability are well described in aqueous environments, yet many of those mechanisms have limited applicability in non-aqueous systems. Destabilization is often undesirable leading to phase separation and surface fouling. Polyaromatic molecules in non-aqueous solvents are particularly problematic due to their many mechanisms of self-interaction including π-π stacking, hydrophobic forces and metal ion coordination complexes.
These molecules have a tendency to grow in size from the monomer unit forming nanoaggregates and clusters, eventually phase separating from the solvent. Polymeric dispersants are added to the solvent to stabilize the polyaromatic molecules by steric forces, however these dispersants only inhibit aggregation but critically cannot stop aggregation.
The study will elucidate the dominant mechanism for aggregation such that polymers of desired functionality can be synthesized to specifically interact with the polyaromatic molecules and occupy principal aggregation sites. The ambition of the project is to design dispersants that prevent aggregation and perform in challenging environments (high temperature, poor solvency). The project will require skills in polymer chemistry and will develop new skills in the areas of structural characterization, colloid science and measurement techniques.