Made-to-Order Conducting Polymers
Unlike metals, the properties of electrically conducting polymers can be manipulated using the principles and reactions common in synthetic organic chemistry. Polymers are macromolecules made up of thousands to millions of repeated molecular units, and this new class of polymers -- conducting polymers -- is finding its way into a wide range of technologies ranging from chemical sensors to polymer-based electronic devices.
One of the biggest challenges in the field is implementing the chemical properties of organic polymer without destroying their conducting properties. Dr. Michael Freund, a chemist and pioneer in this emerging field, is working on strategies that would preserve and control these properties.
A major component of Dr. Freund's research has focused on conducting polymer synthesis and characterization and the application of these materials as sensors in the field of analytical chemistry. Some of the applications have included polymer-modified electrodes for enhanced sensitivity, saccharide detection and odour detection.
Right now, Dr. Freund is developing a new approach for detecting sugars using conducting polymers which has the potential to overcome some of the limitations posed by current detection techniques. His work is of particular importance in the development of implantable sensors for monitoring diabetics. If successful, sensors using his approach will have a major impact on the treatment of diabetes a disease that affects over 2 million Canadians. It would also help in the effort to create an artificial pancreas and, when incorporated with an insulin delivery system, this sensor could free diabetics from strict diet controls and daily pinpricks.
The long-term impact of Dr. Freund's research will be felt in a wide range of technologies. For example, as technologies ranging from electronics to remote sensors move toward smaller, cheaper and greener formats, lightweight and inexpensive organic conducting polymers will play a more prominent role in their production and implementation. By varying the chemical, mechanical and electronic properties of the polymers, Dr. Freund and his team will be able to tailor them for specific functions, such as enhancing the plasticity or adhesion characteristics needed for incorporation into specific devices or manufacturing processes.