Date of Award

May 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Jian Chen

Committee Members

James M. Cook, Mark L. Dietz, Guilherme L. Indig, Alan W. Schwabacher


π-Conjugated polymers have a wide range of applications such as photovoltaics, light-emitting diodes, and sensors. To gain a better understanding of these systems, monodisperse oligomers can be used as a more simplistic model to generate predictive structural and physical properties of corresponding polymers. A divergent/convergent synthetic approach to synthesis of monodisperse π-conjugated oligomers has been developed. These well-defined, thiophene-containing molecular building blocks have been successfully coupled to a ferrocene hinge, which has been found to be highly efficient in the transport of gold atoms using a gold scanning tunneling microscopy tip.

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) represent a rare class of materials, which exhibit a number of outstanding properties in a single material system, such as high aspect ratio, small diameter, light weight, high mechanical strength, high electrical and thermal conductivities, and near-IR optical and optoelectronic properties. Aerogels are highly porous, low-density materials comprised of a solid, three-dimensional (3D) nanoscale network fully accessible to ions and molecules. By combining the extraordinary properties of CNTs with those of aerogels, a new class of materials becomes accessible with unique multifunctional material properties. CNT aerogels that are mechanically stable and stiff, highly porous, and exhibit excellent electrical conductivity and large specific surface area have been developed.

CNTs are recognized as the ultimate carbon fibers for high-performance, multifunctional materials, where an addition of only a small amount of CNTs, if engineered appropriately, could lead to simultaneously enhanced mechanical strength and electrical conductivity. For the first time, using core-shell multi-walled CNTs as a filler to increase the dielectric constant and reduce the dielectric loss of nanotube-polymer composites has been demonstrated.

While most efforts in the field of CNT-polymer composites have been focused on passive material properties such as mechanical, electrical, and thermal, there is growing interest in harnessing active material functions such as actuation, sensing, and power generation in designed CNT-polymer materials. The synergy between CNTs and the polymer matrix has been judiciously exploited to create highly desirable active material functions in smart material systems. By incorporating CNTs in a Nafion matrix, multi-shape memory healable composites capable of reversible remote, local, and chemical programming have been developed.