Electrostatic Self-Assembly of Nanocomposite Electro-Optic Materials
NanoSonic and a major U.S. aerospace company would work together during the Phase I NASA SBIR program to develop a ground-based experiment to evaluate the potential advantages of the nanoscale self-assembly of electro-optic materials in space. For use in low-voltage, high frequency electro-optic modulators, such materials require the internal nanoscale alignment of molecular dipoles. Conventional guest-host polymer-based electro-optic modulator materials achieve such alignment through the application of a large electric field at elevated temperatures, followed by cooling of the polymer to effectively freeze in the dipolar alignment. However, since the resulting material is in a nonequilibrium state, this alignment relaxes with time and temperature, and modulator performance decreases. Biologically-inspired liquid phase self-assembly processes have been demonstrated to yield improved molecular alignment, without the need for electric field poling. Additional improvements in alignment and resulting electro-optic properties may be possible by avoiding the influence of the gravitational field on intermolecular dynamics during the self-assembly process. During the Phase I program, a self-contained and simple terrestrial experiment will be developed to allow the evaluation of the effect of gravitational effects on the molecular alignment of electro-optic materials during self-assembly. Experimental evaluation will be performed in cooperation with NASA.
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