(collaborative work with Prof. Rich Noble, CU Boulder)
In addition to the design and development of new nanoporous polymer materials based on LC starting materials, our research group has recently been involved in the design and synthesis of new type of ionic organic materials based at room-temperature ionic liquids (RTILs), in collaboration with Prof. Rich Noble at CU Boulder. RTILs are classified as molten organic salts at room-temperature, and they have a unique combination of properties as liquid materials, including negligible vapor pressure, high ionic conductivity, usual gas solubility properties, and even intrinsic accelerating properties for certain chemical reactions. Consequently, RTILs have been shown to be valuable as new reaction solvents and catalysts, as ion-conducting media, and as new media for light gas separations in supported liquid membranes. One major goal of this new area of work in our group is generate and explore new types of RTILs containing unusual or unprecedented functional groups, capabilities, and properties in order to expand the applications potential of these unique solvent sand liquid materials. A second major goal of our work in the RTIL materials area is to explore new morphologies of RTIL-based organic materials, such as new polymeric forms based on RTIL building blocks, RTIL-based solid-liquid composites, and nanostructured polymer-RTIL solid-liquid composites. The premise of this latter work is to obtain unique materials systems and morphologies with the desirable properties of RTILs but with more robust solid-like properties for materials applications and a degree of liquid-like mobility for good transport behavior.
Our initial application target for these materials is gas separations (i.e., as sorbents and membranes) because of the unique solubility selectivity properties of conventional RTILs for gases such as CO2. Specifically, we are designing and developing new functional RTIL materials for: (1) the separation or capture of CO2 from N2 and CH4; and (2) the separation of chemical warfare agent (CWA) simulants and toxic industrial compounds (TICs) from water vapor or for their specific capture. The first area is important for industrial energy production and environmental concerns. The second area is important for individual protection in military operations and civilian emergency first-responder situations. We also intend to examine the potential of these new types of RTIL-based materials in other application areas where fluid ions in a solid matrix would be beneficial.