Controlling molecular ordering in solution-state conjugated polymers†
Rationally encoding molecular interactions that can control the assembly structure and functional expression in a solution of conjugated polymers hold great potential for enabling optimal organic optoelectronic and sensory materials. In this work, we show that thermally-controlled and surfactant-guided assembly of water-soluble conjugated polymers in aqueous solution is a simple and effective strategy to generate optoelectronic materials with the desired molecular ordering. We have studied a conjugated polymer consisting of a hydrophobic thiophene backbone and hydrophilic, thermo-responsive ethylene oxide side groups, which shows a step-wise, multi-dimensional assembly in water. By incorporating the polymer into phase-segregated domains of an amphiphilic surfactant in solution, we demonstrate that both chain conformation and degree of molecular ordering of the conjugated polymer can be tuned in hexagonal, micellar and lamellar phases of the surfactant solution. The controlled molecular ordering in conjugated polymer assembly is demonstrated as a key factor determining the electronic interaction and optical function.