by Lesley Porcelli
Michael Sponsler (pictured, left), professor of chemistry and director of curricular programs for the Forensic and National Security Sciences Institute, and Steluta Dinca (pictured, right), postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Chemistry, have been awarded a grant from The National Science Foundation for their project, EAGER: Synthesis of a New Funcitonal Material: Superconducting Polyacetylene.
Preparation of organic superconductors—organic materials that can carry electrical currents without energy loss at room temperature and ambient pressure—has been a holy grail in materials science, chemistry, and physics since 1964. Sponsler and Dinca hope to determine whether a new method emerging from foundational work by Syracuse University scientists can make a superconductor from polyacetylene without added dopants (simple impurities that change the molecule’s electrical conductivity).
If successful, research outcomes would be transformative for many energy and transportation applications. For example, it will enable an energy storage device for a more efficient and stable power-grid infrastructure. It should even be possible to make fully rechargeable batteries using this material, which could replace lithium-ion batteries in transportation applications. The system could provide enough storage capacity to enable a more widespread use of renewable power sources like wind and solar that are currently limited by the lack of room-temperature energy storage technologies, thus the carbon footprint of these sources could also be further reduced.
The project will also reveal how this material, resulting from the new synthetic method, achieves metallic conductivity or superconductive properties. Scientists have been studying the properties of polyacetylene for decades and have not resolved this issue—if successful, this proposal would be groundbreaking science to at least the two fields: condensed matter physics and materials chemistry.