Sol-gel derived polymer composites for energy storage and conversion

Open Access
Han, Kuo
Graduate Program:
Materials Science and Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
April 30, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Qing Wang, Dissertation Advisor
  • Michael T Lanagan, Committee Member
  • Qiming Zhang, Committee Member
  • Zoubeida Ounaies, Committee Member
  • nanocomposite
  • ferroelectric
  • piezoelectric
  • sol-gel
  • energy storage
Sol-gel process is a simple chemistry to convert the small precursor molecules into an inorganic polymer, which could be applied to synthesize inorganic materials, modify the interface of materials, bridge the organic and inorganic materials, etc. In this dissertation, novel sol-gel derived composites have been developed for high dielectric breakdown capacitors, low high frequency loss capacitors and flexible piezoelectrics. Numerous efforts have been made in the past decades to improve the energy storage capability of composite materials by incorporating nanometer scale ceramic addictives with high dielectric permittivity into dielectric polymers with high breakdown strength. However, most composites suffer from the low breakdown strength and make the potential gain in energy density small. Here, a new chemical strategy is proposed that, through sol-gel reactions between ceramic precursors and functional groups at the end of the functionalized Poly(vinylidene fluoride -co- chlorotrifluoroethylene) chains, amorphous low permittivity ceramics was in-situ generated in the polymer matrix and cross-linked the polymer chains simultaneously. By carefully tuning precursors, the polymer/precursors feeding ratios, a series of nanocomposites were systematically designed. All the samples are comprehensively characterized and the structure-property correlations are well investigated. The optimal samples exhibit higher breakdown strength than the pristine polymer. The enhanced breakdown strength ascribed to low contrast in permittivity, great dispersion and improved electrical and mechanical properties. This newly developed approach has shown great promise for new composite capacitors. The percolative polymer composites have recently exhibited great potential in energy storage due to their high dielectric permittivities at the neighborhood of the percolation threshold. Yet high energy dissipation and poor voltage endurance of the percolative composites resulted from electrical conduction are still open issues to be addressed before full potential can be realized. Herein we report the percolative composites based on ferroelectric poly(vinylidene fluoride-co-chlorotrifluoroethylene) as the matrix and sol-gel derived SiO2 coated reduced graphene oxide nanosheets as the filler. By capitalizing on the SiO2 surface layers which have high electrical resistivity and breakdown strength, the composites exhibit superior dielectric performance as compared to the respective composites containing bare reduced graphene oxide nanosheet fillers. In addition to greatly reduced dielectric loss, little change in dielectric loss has been observed within medium frequency range (ie. 300 KHz - 3 MHz) in the prepared composites even with a filler concentration beyond the percolation threshold, indicating significantly suppressed energy dissipation and the feasibility of using the conductor-insulator composites beyond the percolation threshold. Moreover, remarkable breakdown strength of 80 MV/m at the percolation threshold has been achieved in the composite, which far exceeds those of conventional percolative composites (lower than 0.1 MV/m in most cases) and thus enables the applications of the percolative composites at high electric fields. This work offers a new avenue to the percolative polymer composites exhibiting high permittivity, reduced loss and excellent breakdown strength for electrical energy storage applications. Flexible piezoelectric materials have attracted extensive attention because they can provide a practical way to scavenge energy from the environment and motions. It also provides the possibility to fabricate wearable and self-powered energy generator for powering small electronic devices. In the dissertation a new composite including BTO 3D structure and PDMS has been successfully fabricated using the sol-gel process. The structure, flexibility, dielectric and piezoelectric properties have been well studied. The new material shows a high g33 value of more than 400 mV m/N. Moreover, the durability of this composite has been confirmed by cycle tests even though the BTO structure falls apart into small pieces in the PDMS matrix. The unique morphology of the composite allows the broken piece to connect with each other to generate power under stress. This work also opens a new route toward flexible piezoelectric composites.