Chemical Engineering Seminar
Electronically conductive and semiconductive polymers enable the development of low-cost, lightweight, and functional electronic devices. They are chemically diverse and versatile, and they have been used for applications ranging from energy harvesting to bioelectronics. Here, I provide an overview of the development of conductive polymers and describe work in my group on the engineering of conductive and semiconductive polymers for photovoltaics, low-cost SARS-CoV-2 sensors, and living microbial bioelectronic sensors. First, I show how linking two different conjugated polymers together produces materials suitable for thin film photovoltaics. This molecular linkage also has a dramatic impact on the material structural and optoelectronic properties, and I demonstrate how changing the chemistry of the linking group has a dramatic impact on photovoltaic performance. Next, I discuss the use of conductive polymers in low-cost thin films sensors for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Conductive polymer thin films functionalized with an engineered protein designed to bind strongly to SARS-CoV-2 enables detection of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein at concentrations down to 10-20 M and inactive SARS-CoV-2 virus down to 40 pfu/mL. Finally, I discuss how conductive polymers can be used to interface exoelectrogenic microbes in living microbial devices. Conductive polymer thin film coatings enhance microbial attachment and increase current densities by orders of magnitude compared to unmodified electrodes. This enables novel sensors that rely on engineered microbes for sensing and conductive polymer thin films for transduction. This talk highlights the potential and versatility of conductive polymers while also identifying fundamental challenges and future directions in the field.