A research development and licensing agreement between researchers in the Center for Macromolecular Science and Engineering at the University of Florida and Ciba Specialty Chemicals seeks to utilize a family of dioxypyrrole-based electrochromic and conducting polymers for color-changing display and switchable window applications. By producing soluble polymers that can be processed by spraying, roll coating, or printing methods, the team is directing their efforts to producing electroactive coatings that can be used forapplications that range from flexible printed displays for advertising to mirrors and windows in automotive and architectural applications.
The UF/Ciba effort grew out of a federally funded electrochromic polymers research program carried out in the Reynolds research group over the last ten years. Within this, students and postdocs in the group discovered that the N-alkylated poly(3,4-dioxypyrroles) (PXDOPs) have the unique property of being colorless and transparent in their charge neutral state, while being easily electrochemically switched to a colored charged state with a small applied voltage in electrolyte. This team, which has included Prof. John Reynolds with students Ryan Walczak and Ece Unur along with postdoctoral fellow June-Ho Jung shown in the accompanying picture have developed numerous polymers and copolymers that capture a broad range of electrochromic colors. The synthesis and properties of the PXDOPs were recently reviewed in the journal Advanced Materials (2006, 18, 1121-1131) by part of the team. The collaboration between the academic and industrial institutes is highly interactive with Ciba researchers spending time in the UF laboratories, along with reciprocal visits of UF researchers to the Ciba facility in Tarrytown, NY.
John Reynolds, who serves as principal investigator for the research at UF, notes “The Ciba-Florida program does exactly what one would want in a Company-University collaboration. The University benefits as our students and postdocs are trained, able to learn how industrial research is successfully accomplished, and carry out research in developing and characterizing new conjugated polymer systems. The company benefits as it picks up state-of-the-art electroactive polymer characterization methods, has access to University intellectual property, and develops new products.”
On the other side, Joe Babiarz who serves as the team leader and overall coordinator for the program at Ciba adds “when we initially thought about exploring the area of electroactive materials, we knew early on that a partner was needed. John Reynolds’ work was known to us and at a Society of Vacuum Coaters meeting in Dallas in 2004 we introduced ourselves to him and that started our collaboration. We are coming to the end of our second year together and plan to continue. John states quite clearly the mutual benefit. We look forward to a long lasting relationship.”