Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering Division

2012 ACS Applied Polymer Science Award in Honor of John R. Reynolds

John R. Reynolds, winner of the 2012 American Chemical Society Award in Applied Polymer Science, is recognized for his long-standing work in the area of electron rich, redox active, and electrochromic polymers developing organic and polymer chemistry, materials science and devices.

John is currently a Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Materials Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology with expertise in polymer chemistry and serves as a member of the Center for Organic Photonics and Electronics (COPE).  His research interests have involved electrically conducting and electroactive conjugated polymers for over 30 years with work focused towards the development of new polymers by manipulating their fundamental organic structure in order to control their optoelectronic and redox properties.

John’s initial direction into science came under the tutelage of Prof. Juana V. Acrivos as he pursued his B.S. in Chemistry (1979) and carried out gas-phase AsF5 intercalation reactions of pyrolytic graphite.  Following initial work in UV-cured coatings and inks at the Borden Chemical Company, he became interested in the field of conducting and electroactive polymers through a position with the IBM Research Laboratories under the guidance of G. Bryan Street in the late 1970s. Reynolds obtained his M.S. (1982) and Ph.D. (1984) degrees from the University of Massachusetts in Polymer Science and Engineering under the advisement of Profs. James C. W. Chien and Frank E. Karasz where his work focused on the gas-phase doping of poly(phenylene vinylene) derivatives, electrochemical doping of polyacetylene, and development of intrinsically conducting complexes of transition metal tetrathiooxalates.

After developing his own research effort in polyheterocycle chemistry at The University of Texas at Arlington (1984-1991), he moved to the University of Florida where his group had a focused effort on redox electroactive and electrochromic polymers for twenty years (1991-2011).  At UF, Reynolds was a Professor of Chemistry and Associate Director of the Center for Macromolecular Science and Engineering and was recognized with a V. T. and Louise Jackson Professorship. In Spring 2012, the Reynolds Research Group moved to the Georgia Institute of Technology.

When one considers the development and utility of redox active p-conjugated polymers with potential applications in electrochromism, charge storage (batteries and supercapacitors), solar cells, and conducting polymers in general, Reynolds’ contributions are evident. His development of the chemistry and materials science of 3,4-alkylenedioxythiophene (XDOT) and 3,4-alkylenedioxypyrrole (XDOP) polymers, and especially his focus on their electrochromic properties and devices there from, is unparalleled.  Presently, the electron rich PXDOT polymers, especially led by the parent PEDOT, stand as the most important of the conducting polymer systems available. The Reynolds group has taken a broad approach in which the design of new materials is accompanied by an extensive molecular organic and polymer synthesis effort. Leading the way in going beyond the typical “synthesize and characterize” approach, materials are designed for specific properties, these properties are fully characterized, and subsequent platform devices are constructed and tested as proofs of principle for the evident utility of the materials. 

Reynolds and his group have developed new chemistries to XDOT and XDOP monomers and polymers as evidenced by the many publications (over 300 peer-reviewed scientific papers) and patents (15 patents issued and ~25 patents pending).  With new monomers in hand, the Reynolds group has developed significant new oxidative and metal-mediated polymerization methodologies allowing access to polymers not previously obtained.  Much of this work has focused around a series of functionalized PProDOTS and derivatives, which have been developed to yield solution processable and highly electroactive electrochromic polymer films.  His group’s synthesis of a broad family of donor-acceptor (DA) p-conjugated polymers now provides the most extensive color palette of electrochromic polymers prepared, spanning yellow, orange, red, magenta, purple, blue, cyan, green, and even black.  Importantly, each of these compositions switch to a highly transmissive state as required for electrochromic window and display applications. Detailed property characterization is a hallmark of Reynolds’ research approach.  Going beyond the typical electrochemical and spectroscopic methods, the Reynolds group pioneered the use of electrochemical quartz crystal microgravimetry for monitoring redox induced mass changes, showed how differential pulse voltammetry for analysis of polymer HOMO/LUMO levels provides more accurate results than cyclic voltammetry, and especially important, led the field in the development of new methods for the colorimetric analysis of electrochromic polymers.  In this last area, the Reynolds group has essentially written the book on characterization, and their methods are used by many others.

Not content with stopping at a polymer chemistry approach to science, the Reynolds group has developed a number of electrochromic device techniques as platforms for materials property characterization and determination of the utility of these electrochromic systems.  Beginning with dual polymer window-type electrochromic devices, the Reynolds group pioneered the use of complimentary anodically- and cathodically-coloring polymers, which provide deeply colored states that can be switched to highly transmissive states.  The Reynolds group has been the first to utilize non-color changing counter electrode polymers in combination with vibrantly colored and high contrast electrochromic polymers to produce the most vividly color changing devices to date.   In addition to the window-type devices, the Reynolds group has led the way in new methods for preparing reflective electrochromic devices which are finding utility in the display field and have demonstrated their utility as electrochemically controlled variable optical attenuators.  Using a combination of specular metal and diffuse reflective surfaces, the Reynolds research effort has been able to develop devices that switch at near video rates.  As one considers the future of this field, the Reynolds group has collaborated with many scientists across a broad range of disciplines and has worked closely with many who are intensely interested in end-use applications of electrochromics, ranging from small start-ups to large industrial partners.

Reynolds served as co-editor of the “Handbook of Conducting Polymers” which was published in 1998 and 2007.  He serves on the editorial board for the journals ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, Macromolecular Rapid Communications, Polymers for Advanced Technologies, and the Journal of Macromolecular Science, Chemistry. He serves on the International Advisory Boards for the International Conference on the Science and Technology of Synthetic Metals (ICSM), and Functional pi-molecules (f-pi series).  Most importantly, he has served as the advisor to 45 Ph.D. graduates, 4 Masters graduates, 55 Postdoctoral Associates and many undergraduate students and takes pride in the careers they are developing.

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