Mechanically Tunable, Readily Processable Ion Gels by Self-Assembly of Block Copolymers in Ionic Liquids

Timothy P. Lodge, Takeshi Ueki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

143 Scopus citations


ConspectusRoom temperature ionic liquids are of great interest for many advanced applications, due to the combination of attractive physical properties with essentially unlimited tunability of chemical structure. High chemical and thermal stability, favorable ionic conductivity, and complete nonvolatility are just some of the most important physical characteristics that make ionic liquids promising candidates for emerging technologies. Examples include separation membranes, actuators, polymer gel electrolytes, supercapacitors, ion batteries, fuel cell membranes, sensors, printable plastic electronics, and flexible displays. However, in these and other applications, it is essential to solidify the ionic liquid, while retaining the liquid state properties of interest.A broadly applicable solidification strategy relies on gelation by addition of suitable triblock copolymers with the ABA architecture, producing ion gels or ionogels. In this paradigm, the A end blocks are immiscible with the ionic liquid, and consequently self-assemble into micellar cores, while some fraction of the well-solvated B midblocks bridge between micelles, forming a percolating network. The chemical structures of the A and B repeat units, the molar mass of the blocks, and the concentration of the copolymer in the ionic liquid are all independently tunable to attain desired property combinations. In particular, the modulus of the resulting ion gel can be readily varied between 100 Pa and 1 MPa, with little sacrifice of the transport properties of the ionic liquid, such as ionic conductivity or gas diffusivity. Suitable A blocks can impart thermoreversible gelation (with solidification either on heating or cooling) or even photoreversible gelation.By virtue of the nonvolatility of ionic liquids, a wide range of processing strategies can be employed directly to prepare ion gels in thin or thick film forms, including solvent casting, spin coating, aerosol jet printing, photopatterning, and transfer printing. For higher modulus ion gels it is even possible to employ a manual "cut and stick" strategy for easy device fabrication. Ion gels prepared from common triblock copolymers, for example, with A = polystyrene and B = poly(ethylene oxide) or poly(methyl methacrylate), in imidazolium based ionic liquids provide exceptional performance in membranes for separating CO2 from N2 or CH4. The same materials also are the best available gate dielectrics for printed plastic electronics, because their high capacitance endows organic transistors with milliamp output currents for sub-1 V applied bias, with switching speeds that can go well beyond 100 kHz, while being amenable to large area roll-to-roll printing. Incorporation of well-designed electroluminescent (e.g., Ru(bpy)3-based) or electrochromic (e.g., viologen-based) moieties into ion gels held between transparent electrodes yields flexible color displays operating with sub-1 V dc inputs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2107-2114
Number of pages8
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 18 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation through Award DMR-1206459, by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research under Grant FA9550-12-1-0067, and in part by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research No. 26620164 and No. 15H05495 (T.U.) from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan. Selected measurements were carried out in the Characterization Facility, University of Minnesota, which has received capital equipment funding from the NSF through the UMN MRSEC program, under Award DMR-1420013. Collaborations and discussions with M. Watanabe, C. D. Frisbie, Y. Kitazawa, Y. He, B. Tang, S. Zhang, K.-H. Lee, J.-H. Choi, H.-C. Moon, and Y. Gu are gratefully acknowledged.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Chemical Society.

MRSEC Support

  • Partial

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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