Visualizing ion transport in polymers via ion-chromic indicators

Chen Chen, Sifei Du, Jay M. Taylor, Junrou Huang, Christopher M. Evans, Paul V. Braun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is growing interest in polymers with high ionic conductivity for applications including batteries, fuel cells, and separation membranes. However, measuring ion diffusion in polymers can be challenging, requiring complex procedures and instrumentation. Here, a simple strategy to study ion diffusion in polymers is presented that utilizes ion-chromic spiropyan as an indicator to measure the diffusion of LiTFSI, KTFSI, and NaTFSI within poly(ethylene oxide)-based polymer networks. These systems are selected, as these are common ions and polymers used in energy storage applications, however, the approach described is not specific to materials for energy storage. Specifically, to enabling the study of ion diffusion, these salts cause the spiropyran to undergo an isomerization reaction, which results in a significant color change. This colorimetric response enables the determination of the diffusion coefficients of these ions within films of these polymers simply by optically tracking the spatial-temporal evolution of the isomerization product within the film and fitting the data to the relevant diffusion equations. The simplicity of the method makes it amenable to the study of ion diffusion in polymers under a range of conditions, including various temperatures and under macroscopic deformation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-92
Number of pages7
JournalACS Macro Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 17 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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