Ion conducting block copolymers can overcome traditional limitations of homopolymer electrolytes by phase separating into nanoarchitectures that can be simultaneously optimized for two or more orthogonal material properties such as high ionic conductivity and mechanical stability. A key challenge in understanding the ion transport properties of these materials is the difficulty of extracting structure-function relationships without having complete knowledge of all nanoscale transport pathways in bulk samples. Here we demonstrate a method for deriving structure-transport relationships for ion conducting block copolymers using thin films and interdigitated electrodes. Well-defined and directly imaged structure in films of poly(styrene)-block-poly(2-vinylpyridine) is controlled using techniques of directed self-assembly then the poly(2-vinylpyridine) is selectively converted into an ion conductor. The ion conductivity is found to be directly proportional to the total number of connected paths between electrodes and the path length. A single defect such as a dislocation anywhere in the path of an ion conducting route disconnects and precludes that pathway from contributing to the conductivity and results in an increase in the dielectric parameter of the film. When all the ion conduction pathways are blocked between electrodes, the conductivity is negligible, 4 orders of magnitude lower compared to a completely connected morphology and the dielectric parameter increases by a factor of 50. These results have profound implications for the interpretation, design, and processing of block copolymer electrolytes for applications as ion conducting membranes.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Materials Science(all)
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Mechanical Engineering