ACS funding supports research for recyclable, durable electrodes

The research led by Xiwen Gong aims to develop more stable, recyclable plastic electrodes for flexible and wearable electronics.

New funding from the American Chemical Society (ACS) has been awarded to Assistant Professor Xiwen Gong. The grant from the ACS Petroleum Research Fund will support her work to create better, more recyclable plastic electrodes that can withstand high temperatures.

Innovating composite plastic electrodes

Gong’s project focuses on advancing the design and functionality of polymer-silver nanowire (AgNW) composite electrodes. These electrodes are important for flexible and wearable electronics, where they need to bend and stretch without losing their effectiveness.

“With the support from the ACS Petroleum Research Fund, we will investigate the impact of the molecular interactions on the thermal stability and stretchability of recyclable polymer-silver nanowire composite electrodes,” said Gong. “This investigation will guide us in establishing a general molecule design rationale to  develop high-performance composite plastic electrodes that are environmentally friendly.”

This image illustrates the process of depositing conductive metal nanowires onto the substrate using a spray coating technique. The silver mask enables the patterning of the deposited metal nanowires. The ultrasonic nozzle, positioned above, sprays out the tiny solution droplets, resulting in a homogeneous thin film deposition. Credit:
Zhengtao Hu and Dong Seob Chung (Gong Lab).

Addressing key challenges

The project addresses two major challenges in the current landscape of plastic electrodes: thermal stability and recyclability, representing a substantial step toward the practical application of flexible and wearable electronics that rely on plastic electrodes.

Plastic electrode being twisted by a tweezer. The electrode is made of transparent thermoplastic polymer embedded with yellow patterned metal nanowires. The unique material properties allow the electrode to withstand deformation while maintaining the good conductivity. Credit: Zhengtao Hu and Dong Seob Chung (Gong Lab).

“The electrodes in our work will benefit a variety of modern electronics, including recyclable solar cells, bio-integrable light-emitting diodes, and beyond,” Gong said. “The molecule-design strategy proposed in our project would enhance the electrode performance, thereby facilitating the operational stability of the electronic device where the plastic electrode plays an essential role.”

By improving these electrodes, electronic devices could become more durable, environmentally friendly and efficient, benefiting products like recyclable solar cells and wearable health monitors.

Here the plastic electrode is shown being applied to the wrist using a tweezer. The softness of the plastic electrode enables conformal contact with human skin, highlighting its significant potential for applications in wearable electronics. Credit: Zhengtao Hu and Dong Seob Chung (Gong Lab).

“It is a great honor for our team to receive this Doctoral New Investigator award from the ACS PRF program,” Gong said. “This grant will enable our team to explore the structural-property relationships within plastic electrodes and develop high-performance electrodes via interfacial engineering strategies for diverse wearable electronics.”