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Title: Novel functional polymeric nanomaterials for energy harvesting applications
Author: Choi, Yeonsik
ISNI:       0000 0004 7652 787X
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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Polymer-based piezoelectric and triboelectric generators form the basis of well-known energy harvesting methods that are capable of transforming ambient vibrational energy into electrical energy via electrical polarization changes in a material and contact electrification, respectively. However, the low energy conversion efficiency and limited thermal stability of polymeric materials hinder practical application. While nanostructured polymers and polymer-based nanocomposites have been widely studied to overcome these limitations, the performance improvement has not been satisfactory due to limitations pertaining to long-standing problems associated with polymeric materials; such as low crystallinity of nanostructured polymers, and in the case of nanocomposites, poor dispersion and distribution of nanoparticles in the polymer matrix. In this thesis, novel functional polymeric nanomaterials, for stable and physically robust energy harvesting applications, are proposed by developing advanced nanofabrication methods. The focus is on ferroelectric polymeric nanomaterials, as this class of materials is particularly well-suited for both piezoelectric and triboelectric energy harvesting. The thesis is broadly divided into two parts. The first part focuses on Nylon-11 nanowires grown by a template-wetting method. Nylon-11 was chosen due to its reasonably good ferroelectric properties and high thermal stability, relative to more commonly studied ferroelectric polymers such as polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) and polyvinylidene fluoride-trifluoroethylene (P(VDF-TrFE)). However, limitations in thin-film fabrication of Nylon-11 have led to poor control over crystallinity, and thus investigation of this material for practical applications had been mostly discontinued, and its energy harvesting potential never fully realised. The work in this thesis shows that these problems can be overcome by adopting nanoporous template-wetting as a versatile tool to grow Nylon-11 nanowires with controlled crystallinity. Since the template-grown Nylon-11 nanowires exhibit a polarisation without any additional electrical poling process by exploiting the nanoconfinement effect, they have been directly incorporated into nano-piezoelectric generators, exhibiting high temperature stability and excellent fatigue performance. To further enhance the energy harvesting capability of Nylon-11 nanowires, a gas -flow assisted nano-template (GANT) infiltration method has been developed, whereby rapid crystallisation induced by gas-flow leads to the formation of the ferroelectric δʹ-phase. The well-defined crystallisation conditions resulting from the GANT method not only lead to self-polarization but also increases average crystallinity from 29 % to 38 %. δʹ-phase Nylon-11 nanowires introduced into a prototype triboelectric generator are shown to give rise to a six-fold increase in output power density as observed relative to the δʹ-phase film-based device. Interestingly, based on the accumulated understanding of the template-wetting method, Nylon-11, and energy harvesting devices, it was found that thermodynamically stable α-phase Nylon-11 nanowires are most suitable for triboelectric energy generators, but not piezoelectric generators. Notably, definitive dipole alignment of α-phase nanowires is shown to have been achieved for the first time via a novel thermally assisted nano-template infiltration (TANI) method, resulting in exceptionally strong and thermally stable spontaneous polarization, as confirmed by molecular structure simulations. The output power density of a triboelectric generator based on α-phase nanowires is shown to be enhanced by 328 % compared to a δʹ-phase nanowire-based device under the same mechanical excitation. The second part of the thesis presents recent progress on polymer-based multi-layered nanocomposites for energy harvesting applications. To solve the existing issues related to poor dispersion and distribution of nanoparticles in the polymer matrix, a dual aerosol-jet printing method has been developed and applied. As a result, outstanding dispersion and distribution. Furthermore, this method allows precise control of the various physical properties of interest, including the dielectric permittivity. The resulting nanocomposite contributes to an overall enhancement of the device capacitance, which also leads to high-performance triboelectric generators. This thesis therefore presents advances in novel functional polymeric nanomaterials for energy harvesting applications, with improved performance and thermal stability. It further offers insight regarding the long-standing issues in the field of Nylon-11, template-wetting, and polymer-based nanocomposites.
Supervisor: Kar-Narayan, Sohini Sponsor: Cambridge Trust ; Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: polymer ; ferroelectric ; triboelectric ; piezoelectric ; nanocomposite ; Nylon ; Nylon-11 ; energy ; harvesting ; generator ; nanoconfinement ; nanostructure ; dispersion ; aerosol ; template-wetting ; crystal structure ; crystal phase ; nanomaterial ; nanoparticle ; crystallinity ; self-poling ; self-polarization