Research ArticleMATERIALS SCIENCE

Unprecedented dipole alignment in α-phase nylon-11 nanowires for high-performance energy-harvesting applications

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Science Advances  10 Jun 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 24, eaay5065
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay5065

Abstract

Dipole alignment in ferroelectric polymers is routinely exploited for applications in charge-based applications. Here, we present the first experimental realization of ideally ordered dipole alignment in α-phase nylon-11 nanowires. This is an unprecedented discovery as dipole alignment is typically only ever achieved in ferroelectric polymers using an applied electric field, whereas here, we achieve dipole alignment in as-fabricated nanowires of ‘non-ferroelectric’ α-phase nylon-11, an overlooked polymorph of nylon proposed 30 years ago but never practically realized. We show that the strong hydrogen bonding in α-phase nylon-11 serves to enhance the molecular ordering, resulting in exceptional intensity and thermal stability of surface potential. This discovery has profound implications for the field of triboelectric energy harvesting, as the presence of an enhanced surface potential leads to higher mechanical energy harvesting performance. Our approach therefore paves the way towards achieving robust, high-performance mechanical energy harvesters based on this unusual ordered phase of nylon-11.

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