Impact of Molecular Design on Degradation Lifetimes of Degradable Imine-Based Semiconducting Polymers

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Polymer Science and Engineering


Transient electronics are a rapidly emerging field due to their potential applications in the environment and human health. Recently, a few studies have incorporated acid-labile imine bonds into polymer semiconductors to impart transience; however, understanding of the structure–degradation property relationships of these polymers is limited. In this study, we systematically design and characterize a series of fully degradable diketopyrrolopyrrole-based polymers with engineered sidechains to investigate the impact of several molecular design parameters on the degradation lifetimes of these polymers. By monitoring degradation kinetics via ultraviolet–visible spectroscopy, we reveal that polymer degradation in solution is aggregation-dependent based on the branching point and Mn, with accelerated degradation rates facilitated by decreasing aggregation. Additionally, increasing the hydrophilicity of the polymers promotes water diffusion and therefore acid hydrolysis of the imine bonds along the polymer backbone. The aggregation properties and degradation lifetimes of these polymers rely heavily on solvent, with polymers in chlorobenzene taking six times as long to degrade as in chloroform. We develop a new method for quantifying the degradation of polymers in the thin film and observe that similar factors and considerations (e.g., interchain order, crystallite size, and hydrophilicity) used for designing high-performance semiconductors impact the degradation of imine-based polymer semiconductors. We found that terpolymerization serves as an attractive approach for achieving degradable semiconductors with both good charge transport and tuned degradation properties. This study provides crucial principles for the molecular design of degradable semiconducting polymers, and we anticipate that these findings will expedite progress toward transient electronics with controlled lifetimes.

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Journal of the American Chemical Society





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