Nicholas began his academic career by studying integrated Masters at University College, London. During this time he published his first article, "Multiple exciton generation in nanostructures for advanced photovoltaic cells" - a review of how to produce photovoltaics with greater than 100% internal efficiencies. Following this Nicholas began research into solar voltaics and organic batteries in the group of Prof. Jenny Nelson at Imperial College, London. During this time Nicholas developed his keen interest in how to relate the chemical design of polymers to their ability to function as battery electrode materials. To achieve this goal, Nicholas applies atomistic simulation methods to such polymer systems, and relates the simulated findings to experimental results, bridging the gap between chemistry and device properties. As well as linking molecular chemical design to device performance, Nicholas applies novel simulation and analysis methodologies to study these systems, including Molecular Dynamics, Density Functional Theory, Molecular Metadynamics and Network Analysis.
Master of Science, University College London (2018)
Doctor of Philosophy, Imperial College of London (2023)
PhD, Imperial College, London, Physics (2023)
MSci, University College, London, Natural Sciences (2018)
Alberto Salleo, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Community and International Work
Science Tutor, Greater London
Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology, Computer Science
Titanium Tutors, Bonas MacFarlane, Lionheart Tutoring
UK, Greater London
Opportunities for Student Involvement
Controlling swelling in mixed transport polymers through alkyl side-chain physical cross-linking.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
2023; 120 (35): e2306272120
Semiconducting conjugated polymers bearing glycol side chains can simultaneously transport both electronic and ionic charges with high charge mobilities, making them ideal electrode materials for a range of bioelectronic devices. However, heavily glycolated conjugated polymer films have been observed to swell irreversibly when subjected to an electrochemical bias in an aqueous electrolyte. The excessive swelling can lead to the degradation of their microstructure, and subsequently reduced device performance. An effective strategy to control polymer film swelling is to copolymerize glycolated repeat units with a fraction of monomers bearing alkyl side chains, although the microscopic mechanism that constrains swelling is unknown. Here we investigate, experimentally and computationally, a series of archetypal mixed transporting copolymers with varying ratios of glycolated and alkylated repeat units. Experimentally we observe that exchanging 10% of the glycol side chains for alkyl leads to significantly reduced film swelling and an increase in electrochemical stability. Through molecular dynamics simulation of the amorphous phase of the materials, we observe the formation of polymer networks mediated by alkyl side-chain interactions. When in the presence of water, the network becomes increasingly connected, counteracting the volumetric expansion of the polymer film.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.2306272120
View details for PubMedID 37603750
Ion Size-Dependent Electrochromism in Air-Stable Napthalenediimide-Based Conjugated Polymers
ACS APPLIED MATERIALS & INTERFACES
2023; 15 (14): 17767-17778
Conjugated polymers (CPs) that show stable and reversible cation insertion/deinsertion under ambient conditions hold great potential for optoelectronic and energy storage devices. However, n-doped CPs are prone to parasitic reactions upon exposure to moisture or oxygen. This study reports a new family of napthalenediimide (NDI) based conjugated polymers capable of undergoing electrochemical n-type doping in ambient air. By functionalizing the NDI-NDI repeating unit with alternating triethylene glycol and octadecyl side chains, the polymer backbone shows stable electrochemical doping at ambient conditions. We systematically investigate the extent of volumetric doping involving monovalent cations of varying size (Li+, Na+, tetraethylammonium (TEA+)) with electrochemical methods, including cyclic voltammetry, differential pulse voltammetry, spectroelectrochemistry, and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy. We observed that introducing hydrophilic side chains on the polymer backbone improves the local dielectric environment of the backbones and lowers the energetic barrier for ion insertion. Surprisingly, when using Na+ electrolyte, the polymer films exhibit higher volumetric doping efficiency, faster-switching kinetics, higher optical contrast, and selective multielectrochromism when compared to Li+ or TEA+ electrolytes. Using well-tempered metadynamics, we characterize the free energetics of side chain-ion interactions to find that Li+ binds more tightly to the glycolated NDI moieties than Na+, hindering Li+ ion transport, switching kinetics, and limiting the films' doping efficiency.
View details for DOI 10.1021/acsami.2c21394
View details for Web of Science ID 000967230800001
View details for PubMedID 37011231
The Effect of Glycol Side Chains on the Assembly and Microstructure of Conjugated Polymers
2022; 16 (12): 21303-21314
Conjugated polymers with glycol-based chains, are emerging as a material class with promising applications as organic mixed ionic-electronic conductors, particularly in bioelectronics and thermoelectrics. However, little is still known about their microstructure and the role of the side chains in determining intermolecular interactions and polymer packing. Here, we use the combination of electrospray deposition and scanning tunneling microscopy to determine the microstructure of prototypical glycolated conjugated polymers (pgBTTT and p(g2T-TT)) with submonomer resolution. Molecular dynamics simulations of the same surface-adsorbed polymers exhibit an excellent agreement with the experimental images, allowing us to extend the characterization of the polymers to the atomic scale. Our results prove that, similarly to their alkylated counterparts, glycolated polymers assemble through interdigitation of their side chains, although significant differences are found in their conformation and interaction patterns. A model is proposed that identifies the driving force for the polymer assembly in the tendency of the side chains to adopt the conformation of their free analogues, i.e., polyethylene and polyethylene glycol, for alkyl or ethylene glycol side chains, respectively. For both classes of polymers, it is also demonstrated that the backbone conformation is determined to a higher degree by the interaction between the side chains rather than by the backbone torsional potential energy. The generalization of these findings from two-dimensional (2D) monolayers to three-dimensional thin films is discussed, together with the opportunity to use this type of 2D study to gain so far inaccessible, subnm-scale information on the microstructure of conjugated polymers.
View details for DOI 10.1021/acsnano.2c09464
View details for Web of Science ID 000898874100001
View details for PubMedID 36516000
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC9798861
Impact of Side Chain Hydrophilicity on Packing, Swelling and Ion Interactions in Oxy-bithiophene Semiconductors.
Advanced materials (Deerfield Beach, Fla.)
Exchanging hydrophobic alkyl-based side chains to hydrophilic glycol-based side chains is a widely adopted method for improving mixed-transport device performance, despite the impact on solid state packing and polymer-electrolyte interactions being poorly understood. Presented here is a Molecular Dynamics (MD) force field for modelling alkoxylated and glycolated polythiophenes. The force field is validated against known packing motifs for their monomer crystals. MD simulations, coupled with X-ray Diffraction (XRD), show that alkoxylated polythiophenes will pack with a 'tilted stack' and straight interdigitating side chains, whilst their glycolated counterpart will pack with a 'deflected stack' and an s-bend side chain configuration. MD simulations reveal water penetration pathways into the alkoxylated and glycolated crystals - through the pi-stack and through the lamellar stack respectively. Finally, the two distinct ways tri-ethylene glycol polymers can bind to cations are revealed, showing the formation of a meta-stable single bound state, or an energetically deep double bound state, both with a strong side chain length dependance. The minimum energy pathways for the formation of the chelates are identified, showing the physical process through which cations can bind to one or two side chains of a glycolated polythiophene, with consequences for ion transport in bithiophene semiconductors. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
View details for DOI 10.1002/adma.202204258
View details for PubMedID 35946142
The Role of Long-Alkyl-Group Spacers in Glycolated Copolymers for High-Performance Organic Electrochemical Transistors
2022; 34 (27): e2202574
Semiconducting polymers with oligoethylene glycol (OEG) sidechains have attracted strong research interest for organic electrochemical transistor (OECT) applications. However, key molecular design rules for high-performance OECTs via efficient mixed electronic/ionic charge transport are still unclear. In this work, new glycolated copolymers (gDPP-TTT and gDPP-TTVTT) with diketopyrrolopyrrole (DPP) acceptor and thiophene (T) and vinylene (V) thiophene-based donor units are synthesized and characterized for accumulation mode OECTs, where a long-alkyl-group (C12 ) attached to the DPP unit acts as a spacer distancing the OEG groups from the polymer backbone. gDPP-TTVTT shows the highest OECT transconductance (61.9 S cm-1 ) and high operational stability, compared to gDPP-TTT and their alkylated counterparts. Surprisingly, gDPP-TTVTT also shows high electronic charge mobility in a field-effect transistor, suggesting efficient ion injection/diffusion without hindering its efficient electronic charge transport. The elongated donor unit (TTVTT) facilitates hole polaron formation to be more localized to the donor unit, leading to faster and easier polaron formation with less impact on polymer structure during OECT operation, as opposed to the TTT unit. This is supported by molecular dynamics simulation. These simultaneously high electronic and ionic charge-transport properties are achieved due to the long-alkyl-group spacer in amphipathic sidechains, providing an important molecular design rule for glycolated copolymers.
View details for DOI 10.1002/adma.202202574
View details for Web of Science ID 000802249500001
View details for PubMedID 35474344
- Multiple Exciton Generation in Nanostructures for Advanced Photovoltaic Cells JOURNAL OF NANOTECHNOLOGY 2018; 2018