Many electrochemical devices would benefit from the use of solid state ionic conductors but they often suffer from relatively low ionic conductivity. One way of overcoming this shortcoming that is currently being explored is the use of polymer electrolytes with ionic liquids (ILs) incorporated in the matrix. In their excellent review published in the Journal of Applied Polymer Science Moon Jeong Park and colleagues at Pohang University of Science and Technology discuss tactics to improve the ion transport properties of solid polymer electrolytes in this manner.
Combining the high ion transport of ILs with the low cost and malleability of polymers presents itself as an attractive approach to create solid electrolytes. The team focus on lithium ion batteries, high temperature proton exchange fuel cells, and electro-active actuators. Particular attention is given to manipulating block copolymers to craft self-assembled morphologies in the polymer electrolytes.
Through continuing to explore structure-property relationships, and working to exercise more control of the morphology within the systems, the team hope to achieve higher and higher ion transport. Indeed Park feels that “a breakthrough in the development of next-generation lithium batteries with alleviated safety concerns, high temperature fuel cells with durable operation, and electro-active actuators driven at low voltages” is on the horizon.