Atomistic simulations of aromatic polyurea and polyamide for capacitive energy storage

R Dong and V Ranjan and MB Nardelli and J Bernholc, PHYSICAL REVIEW B, 92, 024203 (2015).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.92.024203

Materials for capacitive energy storage with high energy density and low loss are desired in many fields. We investigate several polymers with urea and amide functional groups using density functional theory and classical molecular dynamics simulations. For aromatic polyurea (APU) and para-aramid (PA), we find several nearly energetically degenerate ordered structures, while meta-aromatic polyurea (mAPU) tends to be rotationally disordered along the polymer chains. Simulated annealing of APU and PA structures results in the formation of hydrogen-bonded sheets, highlighting the importance of dipole-dipole interactions. In contrast, hydrogen bonding does not play a significant role in mAPU, hence the propensity to disorder. We find that the disordered structures with misaligned chains have significantly larger dielectric constants, due to significant increase in the free volume, which leads to easier reorientation of dipolar groups in the presence of an electric field. Large segment motion is still not allowed below the glass transition temperature, which explains the experimentally observed very low loss at high field and elevated temperature. However, the degree of disorder needs to be controlled, because highly entangled structures diminish the free dipoles and decrease permittivity. Among the considered materials, mAPU is the most promising dielectric for capacitive energy storage, but the concept of increasing permittivity while maintaining low loss through disorder-induced free volume increase is generally applicable and provides an alternative pathway for the design of high-performance dielectrics for capacitive energy storage.

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