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  1. Abstract

    Metal cations are potent environmental pollutants that negatively impact human health and the environment. Despite advancements in sensor design, the simultaneous detection and discrimination of multiple heavy metals at sub‐nanomolar concentrations in complex analytical matrices remain a major technological challenge. Here, the design, synthesis, and analytical performance of three highly emissive conjugated polyelectrolytes (CPEs) functionalized with strong iminodiacetate and iminodipropionate metal chelates that operate in challenging environmental samples such as seawater are demonstrated. When coupled with array‐based sensing methods, these polymeric sensors discriminate among nine divalent metal cations (CuII, CoII, NiII, MnII, FeII, ZnII, CdII, HgII, and PbII). The unusually high and robust luminescence of these CPEs enables unprecedented sensitivity at picomolar concentrations in water. Unlike previous array‐based sensors for heavy metals using CPEs, the incorporation of distinct π‐spacer units within the polymer backbone affords more pronounced differences in each polymer's spectroscopic behavior upon interaction with each metal, ultimately producing better analytical information and improved differentiation. To demonstrate the environmental and biological utility, a simple two‐component sensing array is showcased that can differentiate nine metal cation species down to 500 × 10−12 min aqueous media and to 100 × 10−9 min seawater samples collected from the Gulf of Mexico.

     
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  2. Abstract

    Phosphate oxyanions play central roles in biological, agricultural, industrial, and ecological processes. Their high hydration energies and dynamic properties present a number of critical challenges limiting the development of sensing technologies that are cost‐effective, selective, sensitive, field‐deployable, and which operate in real‐time within complex aqueous environments. Here, a strategy that enables the fabrication of an electrolyte‐gated organic field‐effect transistor (EGOFET) is demonstrated, which overcomes these challenges and enables sensitive phosphate quantification in challenging aqueous environments such as seawater. The device channel comprises a composite layer incorporating a diketopyrrolopyrrole‐based semiconducting polymer and a π‐conjugated penta‐t‐butylpentacyanopentabenzo[25]annulene “cyanostar” receptor capable of oxyanion recognition and embodies a new concept, where the receptor synergistically enhances the stability and transport characteristics via doping. Upon exposure of the device to phosphate, a current reduction is observed, consistent with dedoping upon analyte binding. Sensing studies demonstrate ultrasensitive and selective phosphate detection within remarkably low limits of detection of 178 × 10−12m(17.3 parts per trillion) in buffered samples and stable operation in seawater. This receptor‐based doping strategy, in conjunction with the versatility of EGOFETs for miniaturization and monolithic integration, enables manifold opportunities in diagnostics, healthcare, and environmental monitoring.

     
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  3. Abstract

    Homogeneous gold (Au) complexes have demonstrated tremendous utility in modern organic chemistry; however, their application for the synthesis of polymers remains rare. Herein, we demonstrate the first catalytic application of Au complexes toward the polycondensation of alkyne‐containing comonomers and heteroarene nucleophiles. Polymerization occurs through successive intermolecular hydroarylation reactions to produce high molecular weight aromatic copolymers with 1,1‐disubstituted alkene backbone linkages. Clear correlations between the rate and degree of polymerization (DP) were established based on catalyst structure and counterion pairing, thus enabling polymerization reactions that proceeded with remarkable efficiency, high reactivity, and exceptional DPs. The reactivity is broad in scope, enabling the copolymerization of highly functionalized aromatic and aliphatic monomers. These results highlight the untapped utility of Au catalysis in providing access to new macromolecular constructs.

     
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  4. Abstract

    Conductive polymers largely derive their electronic functionality from chemical doping, processes by which redox and charge‐transfer reactions form mobile carriers. While decades of research have demonstrated fundamentally new technologies that merge the unique functionality of these materials with the chemical versatility of macromolecules, doping and the resultant material properties are not ideal for many applications. Here, it is demonstrated that open‐shell conjugated polymers comprised of alternating cyclopentadithiophene and thiadiazoloquinoxaline units can achieve high electrical conductivities in their native “undoped” form. Spectroscopic, electrochemical, electron paramagnetic resonance, and magnetic susceptibility measurements demonstrate that this donor–acceptor architecture promotes very narrow bandgaps, strong electronic correlations, high‐spin ground states, and long‐range π‐delocalization. A comparative study of structural variants and processing methodologies demonstrates that the conductivity can be tuned up to 8.18 S cm−1. This exceeds other neutral narrow bandgap conjugated polymers, many doped polymers, radical conductors, and is comparable to commercial grades of poly(styrene‐sulfonate)‐doped poly(3,4‐ethylenedioxythiophene). X‐ray and morphological studies trace the high conductivity to rigid backbone conformations emanating from strong π‐interactions and long‐range ordered structures formed through self‐organization that lead to a network of delocalized open‐shell sites in electronic communication. The results offer a new platform for the transport of charge in molecular systems.

     
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  5. Abstract

    Supercapacitors have emerged as an important energy storage technology offering rapid power delivery, fast charging, and long cycle lifetimes. While extending the operational voltage is improving the overall energy and power densities, progress remains hindered by a lack of stable n‐type redox‐active materials. Here, a new Faradaic electrode material comprised of a narrow bandgap donor−acceptor conjugated polymer is demonstrated, which exhibits an open‐shell ground state, intrinsic electrical conductivity, and enhanced charge delocalization in the reduced state. These attributes afford very stable anodes with a coulombic efficiency of 99.6% and that retain 90% capacitance after 2000 charge–discharge cycles, exceeding other n‐dopable organic materials. Redox cycling processes are monitored in situ by optoelectronic measurements to separate chemical versus physical degradation mechanisms. Asymmetric supercapacitors fabricated using this polymer with p‐type PEDOT:PSS operate within a 3 V potential window, with a best‐in‐class energy density of 30.4 Wh kg−1at a 1 A g−1discharge rate, a power density of 14.4 kW kg−1at a 10 A g−1discharge rate, and a long cycle life critical to energy storage and management. This work demonstrates the application of a new class of stable and tunable redox‐active material for sustainable energy technologies.

     
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  6. Abstract

    While only few organic photodiodes have photoresponse past 1 µm, novel shortwave infrared (SWIR) polymers are emerging, and a better understanding of the limiting factors in narrow bandgap devices is critically needed to predict and advance performance. Based on state‐of‐the‐art SWIR bulk heterojunction photodiodes, this work demonstrates a model that accounts for the increasing electric‐field dependence of photocurrent in narrow bandgap materials. This physical model offers an expedient method to pinpoint the origins of efficiency losses, by decoupling the exciton dissociation efficiency and charge collection efficiency in photocurrent–voltage measurements. These results from transient photoconductivity measurements indicate that the main loss is due to poor exciton dissociation, particularly significant in photodiodes with low‐energy charge‐transfer states. Direct measurements of the noise components are analyzed to caution against using assumptions that could lead to an overestimation of detectivity. The devices show a peak detectivity of 5 × 1010Jones with a spectral range up to 1.55 µm. The photodiodes are demonstrated to quantify the ethanol–water content in a mixture within 1% accuracy, conveying the potential of organics to enable economical, scalable detectors for SWIR spectroscopy.

     
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  7. Abstract

    Infrared organic photodetector materials are investigated using transient absorption spectroscopy, demonstrating that ultrafast charge generation assisted by polymer aggregation is essential to compensate for the energy gap law, which dictates that excited state lifetimes decrease as the band gap narrows. Short sub‐picosecond singlet exciton lifetimes are measured in a structurally related series of infrared‐absorbing copolymers that consist of alternating cyclopentadithiophene electron‐rich “push” units and strong electron‐deficient “pull” units, including benzothiadiazole, benzoselenadiazole, pyridalselenadiazole, or thiadiazoloquinoxaline. While the ultrafast lifetimes of excitons localized on individual polymer chains suggest that charge carrier generation will be inefficient, high detectivity for polymer:PC71BM infrared photodetectors is measured in the 0.6 < λ < 1.5 µm range. The photophysical processes leading to charge generation are investigated by performing a global analysis on transient absorption data of blended polymer:PC71BM films. In these blends, charge carriers form primarily at polymer aggregate sites on the ultrafast time scale (within our instrument response), leaving quickly decaying single‐chain excitons unquenched. The results have important implications for the further development of organic infrared optoelectronic devices, where targeting processes such as excited state delocalization over aggregates may be necessary to mitigate losses to ultrafast exciton decay as materials with even lower band gaps are developed.

     
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  9. Penicillins and cephalosporins belong to the β-lactam antibiotic family, which accounts for more than half of the world market for antibiotics. Misuse of antibiotics harms human health and the environment. Here, we describe an easy, fast, and sensitive optical method for the sensing and discrimination of two penicillin and five cephalosporin antibiotics in buffered water at pH 7.4, using fifth-generation poly (amidoamine) (PAMAM) dendrimers and calcein, a commercially available macromolecular polyelectrolyte and a fluorescent dye, respectively. In aqueous solution at pH 7.4, the dendrimer and dye self-assemble to form a sensor that interacts with carboxylate-containing antibiotics through electrostatic interaction, monitored through changes in the dye’s spectroscopic properties. This response was captured through absorbance, fluorescence emission, and fluorescence anisotropy. The resulting data set was processed through linear discriminant analysis (LDA), a common pattern-base recognition method, for the differentiation of cephalosporins and penicillins. By pre-hydrolysis of the β-lactam rings under basic conditions, we were able to increase the charge density of the analytes, allowing us to discriminate the seven analytes at a concentration of 5 mM, with a limit of discrimination of 1 mM. 
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  10. Streams in the southeastern United States Coastal Plains serve as an essential source of energy and nutrients for important estuarine ecosystems, and dissolved organic matter (DOM) exported from these streams can have profound impacts on the biogeochemical and ecological functions of fluvial networks. Here, we examined hydrological and temperature controls of DOM during low-flow periods from a forested stream located within the Coastal Plain physiographic region of Alabama, USA. We analyzed DOM via combining dissolved organic carbon (DOC) analysis, fluorescence excitation–emission matrix combined with parallel factor analysis (EEM-PARAFAC), and microbial degradation experiments. Four fluorescence components were identified: terrestrial humic-like DOM, microbial humic-like DOM, tyrosine-like DOM, and tryptophan-like DOM. Humic-like DOM accounted for ~70% of total fluorescence, and biodegradation experiments showed that it was less bioreactive than protein-like DOM that accounted for ~30% of total fluorescence. This observation indicates fluorescent DOM (FDOM) was controlled primarily by soil inputs and not substantially influenced by instream production and processing, suggesting that the bulk of FDOM in these streams is transported to downstream environments with limited in situ modification. Linear regression and redundancy analysis models identified that the seasonal variations in DOM were dictated primarily by hydrology and temperature. Overall, high discharge and shallow flow paths led to the enrichment of less-degraded DOM with higher percentages of microbial humic-like and tyrosine-like compounds, whereas high temperatures favored the accumulation of high-aromaticity, high-molecular-weight, terrestrial, humic-like compounds in stream water. The flux of DOC and four fluorescence components was driven primarily by water discharge. Thus, the instantaneous exports of both refractory humic-like DOM and reactive protein-like DOM were higher in wetter seasons (winter and spring). As high temperatures and severe precipitation are projected to become more prominent in the southeastern U.S. due to climate change, our findings have important implications for future changes in the amount, source, and composition of DOM in Coastal Plain streams and the associated impacts on downstream carbon and nutrient supplies and water quality. 
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