Modeling the Interplay of Conformational and Electronic Structure in Conjugated Polyelectrolytes

David M. Friday, Nicholas E. Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Conjugated polyelectrolytes (CPEs) combine ionic, electronic, and optical functionality with the mechanical and thermodynamic properties of semiflexible, amphiphilic polyelectrolytes. Critical to CPE design is the coupling between macromolecular conformations, ionic interactions, and electronic transport, the combination of which spans electronic to mesoscopic length scales, rendering coherent theoretical analysis challenging. Here, we utilize a recently developed anisotropic coarse-grained model in combination with a phenomenological tight-binding Hamiltonian to explore the interplay of single-chain conformational and electronic structure in CPEs. Accessible single-chain conformations are explored as a function of solvent conditions and chain stiffness, reproducing a rich landscape of rod-like, racquet, pearl necklace, and helical conformations observed in previous works. The electronic structure of each conformational archetype is further analyzed, incorporating through-bond coupling, through-space coupling, and electrostatic contributions to the Hamiltonian. Electrostatics is observed to influence electronic structure primarily by modifying the accessible conformational space and only minimally by direct modulation of on-site energies. Electron transport in CPEs is most efficient in helical and racquet conformations, which is attributed to the flattening of dihedrals and through-space coupling within collapsed conformations. Relatedly, kink formation within racquets does not significantly deteriorate electronic conjugation within CPEs-an insight critical to understanding transport within locally ordered aggregates. These conclusions provide unprecedented computational insight into structure function relationships defining emerging classes of CPEs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1866-1877
Number of pages12
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 8 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Organic Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Materials Chemistry


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