Neha Manohar, Chemical Engineering
“ Working on these projects as a part of my summer co-op with UMass Lowell has really taught me how exciting and challenging research can be.”
"Conducting polymers are plastics that can conduct electricity, and could potentially be a light-weight, flexible, and transparent replacement for rigid, heavy, and opaque metals. Polyaniline is a stable conducting polymer that has drawn a lot of attention due to its unique redox chemistry that lends itself to industrial applications. Our group previously reported an environmentally benign method of making polyaniline from its monomer aniline. The conventional method for polyaniline synthesis creates sulfuric acid as a waste product, but by changing the oxidant in the system to a milder one and adding sodium chloride to the system, we were able to replace the dangerous acid with water. One of my projects this summer involves adapting this new method to the ring-substituted derivatives of polyaniline, which, unlike polyaniline, are soluble in organic solvents and therefore easier to process for industrial purposes. My other project involves switching sodium chloride to salts with higher ionic strengths to improve the quality of the polyaniline obtained. We found that by increasing the ionic strength of the system, the yield and conductivity of the polyaniline increases significantly, and is even greater than that of conventionally synthesized polyaniline. Working on these projects as a part of my summer co-op with UMass Lowell has really taught me how exciting and challenging research can be. I learned a lot from the graduate students and faculty whom I worked with. They were very approachable and patient, and really took the time to answer all my questions and guide me through my projects."