Role of Solvation on Diffusion of Ions in Diblock Copolymers: Understanding the Molecular Weight Effect through Modeling

Y Seo and KH Shen and JR Brown and LM Hall, JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, 141, 18455-18466 (2019).

DOI: 10.1021/jacs.9b07227

Salt-doped diblock copolymers with microphase-separated domains of both an ion conductive and a mechanically strong polymer have been extensively studied due to their potential in transport applications. Several unusual or counterintuitive trends regarding their transport properties have been observed experimentally, such as increasing ion conduction as a function of molecular weight. A crucial feature of these systems is the strong solvation of ions in the conducting microphase due to its higher dielectric constant. Here, we perform molecular dynamics simulations using a coarse-grained model that includes a 1/r(4) potential form to generically represent ion solvation, allowing us to reproduce experimentally observed trends and explore their molecular underpinnings. We find that increasing ion concentration can increase or decrease ion diffusion, depending on solvation strength. We also show that the trend of increasing diffusion with molecular weight becomes more dramatic as ions are solvated in one polymer block more strongly or as the ion-ion interactions get stronger. In contrast to expectations, the interfacial width or the overlap of ions with the nonconductive polymer block does not adequately explain this phenomenon; instead, local ion agglomeration best explains reduced diffusion. Interfacial sharpening, controlled by the Flory chi parameter and molecular weight, tends to allow ions to spread more uniformly, and this increases their diffusion.

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