According to the World Health Organization, nearly one sixth of the world’s population suffers from neurological disorders. These disorders of the nervous system include structural disorders (e.g., spinal cord injury), degeneration (e.g., Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases), infections (e.g., meningitis), functional disorders (e.g., epilepsy), and vascular disorders (e.g., stroke). The study and/or repair of the nervous system requires electronic materials than can interact with the human body, whether with direct contact—for neuroscience—or indirect—for haptics and robotics. But unlike biological systems which are soft (~10 kPa), self-healing, transmit information using ions and are biodegradable, common electronic materials (inorganic conductors and semiconductors) are very hard (~GPa), use electrons and are not biodegradable nor self-healing. This mismatch in properties creates challenges in making stable, safe, and efficient human-machine interfaces. Our group tackles these challenges by designing and synthesizing soft organic electronics (π-conjugated polymers) capable of mixed ionic and electronic conduction, and with tunable physical properties.
We are using the toolbox of modern synthetic chemistry (photocatalysis, C-H activation, controlled radical polymerization, supramolecular chemistry, metathesis) to control both the chemical structure and solid-state assembly of organic electronics from the molecular- to the macro-scale. We are particularly interested in understanding the fundamentals of mixed ionic-electronic conduction, developing electro-responsive polymer actuators, and finding sustainable methods to convert biomass and waste plastics to organic electronics.
If you are interested in any of these projects and working in an interdisciplinary research team at the intersection of organometallic chemistry, polymer synthesis, and materials and device engineering, please visit this page or email Prof. Kayser directly for more details on available projects.
University of Delaware HensWEAR pilot project (completed)
University of Delaware – Argonne National Lab Seed Grant (June 2020 – May 2022)
Center for Plastics Innovation – University of Delaware (January 2021 – June 2021)