Energy - Polymer Science

Ultralight aerogels conduct electricity

Researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have created soft polymer materials capable of thermoelectric energy generation.

Researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have created soft polymer materials capable of thermoelectric energy generation.

The team formed a highly porous aerogel composed of the electronically conductive soft material poly(3,4-theylenedioxythiophene):poly(4-styrenesulfonate) (PEDOT:PSS). PEDOT:PSS is widely used as an organic thermoelectric material, most often in the form of a solvent-processed film.

In this work, PEDOT:PSS aerogels were made by a unique freeze drying technique. Thick films (∼500 μm) of PEDOT:PSS were submerged in water to form a hydrogel. The hydrogel was then immersed in liquid nitrogen and placed under vacuum. The vacuum removed the water in the hydrogel, leaving behind a dried aerogel sample with high porosity. Because the aerogels contained mostly air, they had very low density, were thermally insulating and were even fire-retardant.

The aerogels were light enough to be placed on a dandelion.

The aerogels are light enough to be placed on a dandelion.

The electronic performance of the aerogels was found to be nearly identical to that of the original PEDOT:PSS thick films. This shows that the performance of PEDOT:PSS does not depend on the macroscale structure of the material. This new morphology creates a path to previously unattainable device architectures and presents opportunities for the integration of thermoelectric behavior into the high surface area scaffoldings of aerogels.

 

 

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