Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Mark D. Watson


Donor-acceptor copolymers have received a great deal of attention for application as organic semiconductors, in particular as the active layers in low-cost consumer electronics. The functional groups grafted to the polymer backbones generally dictate the molecular orbital energies of the final materials as well as aid in self-assembly. Additionally, the side chains attached to these functional groups not only dictate the solubility of the final materials, but also their morphological characteristics. The bulk of the research presented in this dissertation focuses on the synthesis and structure-property relationships of polymers containing novel acceptor motifs. Chapter 2 focuses on the synthesis of 1,2-disubstituted cyanoarene monomers as the acceptor motif for copolymerization with known donors. It was found that cyanation of both benzene and thiophene aromatic cores resulted in a decrease of the molecular orbital energy levels. Additionally, the small size of this functional group allowed favorable self-assembly and close π-stacking to occur relative to related acceptor cores carrying alkyl side chains as evidenced by UV-Vis and WAXD data. Chapter 3 describes the systematic variation of side chain branching length and position within a series of phthalimide-based polymers. Branching of the side chains on bithiophene donor units resulted in the expected increase in solubility for these materials. Furthermore, a correlation was found between the branching position, size, and the HOMO energy levels for the polymers. Additionally, it was demonstrated that branching the alkyl side chains in close proximity to polymer backbones does not disrupt conjugation in these systems. A novel acceptor motif based on the 1,3-indanedione unit is presented in Chapter 4. Despite the stronger electron withdrawing capability of this functional group relativeto phthalimide, it was found that polymers based on this unit have the same HOMO molecular orbital energy levels as those presented in Chapter 3. It was found, however, the presence of orthogonal side chains greatly enhanced the solubility of the final polymers. Additionally, UV-Vis and WAXD measurements revealed that thermal annealing had a profound effect on the ordering of these polymers. Despite the presence of orthogonal side chains, long range order and close π-stacking distances were still achieved with these materials. Finally, alkynyl “spacers” were used in Chapter 5 to separate the solubilizing alkyl side chains from the polymer backbones on bithiophene donor monomers. The alkynyl groups allowed for conjugated polymer backbones to be achieved as well as low HOMO energy levels. A correlation between the side chain size, π-stacking distances and HOMO-LUMO energy levels was measured in this polymer series.