Chemistry of Materials, we have arrived!

The official version of the last paper I wrote about has gone live in Chemistry of Materials!

Emissive Conjugated Polymer Networks with Tunable Band-Gaps via Thiol–Ene Click Chemistry

See those LEDs? Made from plastic. Pretty snazzy stuff. 
Wrapping up publication was really quick and painless this time around, which was nice. After getting the reviewer comments back, we had a really easy time turning it back around to the journal. Just goes to show the importance of doing the science right the first time around so the only things the reviewers have to point out are typos and a missed reference or two. Comments went back to Chemistry of Materials without a hitch, we received the galley proofs around a week later for any last minute formatting/typo/blurry picture fixing, and just sent those back at the start of this week. And two days later: we have officially pushed the boundaries of scientific knowledge outward another tiny step.
Lab-wise, I’ve got some other stuff cooking that is producing some really fascinating data, but it’s probably going to be on the backburner for the next month or so. Most of my science focus is on one of the PhD degree requirements here: writing an Original Research Proposal. It’s one of the few Big Official Check Marks you need before they let you call yourself a doctor (along with qualifying exams, thesis and its defense) and essentially amounts to a grant application. It’s chugging along nicely and should be submitted early December, then its back to becoming Science Famous.

Review process: done!

Publication process news! The article we submitted back at the start of September has come back with comments from the peer reviewers. Clocking in at about 2 months after submission, the timing of the response fits pretty well with what we usually expect. Maybe a bit on the long side, but not too bad.

And the good news is that the reviews were about as good as you could realistically hope for: accepted with very minor revisions. Both reviewers more or less just pointed out a few typos, non-exact terminology, and a good reference we missed. One of them did ask for a bit of clarification on a heat vs time plot we were using qualitatively – just to show how quickly certain reactions happened. He wanted a little more quantitative analysis on it, which honestly I had thought about but didn’t go through with. It would have been a lot of work for some fairly ambiguous data. But he asked, so I plugged through it and stuck it in anyway.

Bottom line: paper accepted! We’ve got the corrections made and should be sending it back on Monday. Next the journal will be formatting it to their specs, and we’ll get the galley proofs back for any last minute typo and blurry picture corrections we want to make. ETA till press is probably about a month. Though I think Chemistry of Materials is one of the journals that puts accepted papers up on the web before galley proofs are done, so it could be even sooner!

This just in from your tentacled robot overlords

Terrifying paper title of the day (courtesy of the Whitesides research group):

Robotic Tentacles with Three Dimensional Mobility

The full title is a little bit more verbose (“Robotic Tentacles with Three Dimensional Mobility Based on Flexible Elastomers”) and somehow not quite as frightening.

It’s a pretty neat paper that goes into some of the problems and solutions of building “arms” for robots that can perform a wide variety of arm-type tasks.  It’s a classic problem: how do you make motorized arms that can lift objects with complicated shapes, both without breaking them (if they’re fragile) and with some serious strength (if they’re heavy)?

New journal submission

We just submitted a nice writeup of some if my recent work on semiconducting polymer networks to the ACS’s Chemistry of Materials journal. It’s not going to spark any revolutions in the plastic electronics field, but it’s a really solid contribution towards the ability to fine-tune certain chemistries for making designer applications.

A bit of background for the curious. If you’ve got a smartphone, there are even odds that it uses OLEDs in the display. OLEDs (organic light emitting diodes) are different than older conventional LED lights in that they are made primarily from oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen, where the older LEDs would usually contain lots of metals like silicon and gallium. Recently, people have figured out how to exploit OLEDs so that they’re brighter and more efficient than metal-based LEDs. It’s a win-win. Manufactures use cheaper materials (carbon’s cheaper than gallium), and you get a nice bright phone.

But win-win isn’t good enough. Organic electronics folks are looking for is a win-win-win. One of the biggest advantages of organic electronics is theire flexibility. You can do things like this with them:

That’s a flexible OLED display recently developed by Samsung (full disclosure: some of our grant money comes from none other than Samsung).

So why can’t your phone do that yet? To make the flexible stuff competitive in the market, it needs to both last a long time, and be efficiently bright. The OLEDs in your phone are actually quite brittle, largely because they’re a tight package of small molecules that can fracture when you flex them. To get the stable flexibility, you need use loooong chains of molecules – polymers. But polymers aren’t as bright or efficient as the small molecules yet, so no electronic newspapers for anyone so far.

But! We’re working on it. Hence our paper to Chemistry of Materials. The gist of it is that we’ve developed new chemistries for locking long electronic polymers into a stable semiconducting network that emits light. And not only do those chemistries work with a wide range of LED colors, they’re also waaay easy to make in the lab. That’s a good thing: new science isn’t going to make any headway into commercial applications if it’s difficult and complex, no matter how gee-whiz it is. Have people made semiconducting networks before? Sure they have. But our new way is faster, with less harmful side products, and applicable to a wide range of colors that you can stick in a phone or TV.

So at its heart, I’d call this a perfect example of solid incremental-style science. Presentation of some new ideas expanded from older less efficient ones, hashing out the details to show that those ideas can indeed work, and a few pretty “ooh and ahh” pictures and graphs as some (scientifically important!) eye candy. Never underestimate the power of pretty pictures. So we’ll keep our fingers crossed and see what the reviewers say in a month or so.