Reasons for creating the LIPS Research Consortium

The proposed Research Consortium will be dedicated to scientific issues connected with ionic liquids and polymers and shall strive to unite the scientific communities that study ionic liquids and polymers.  Numerous activities are currently dedicated to ionic liquids, which are viewed as alternative macromolecular synthesis media to conventional organic solvents, compounds for polymer implementation (not just cellulosic polymers), polymer-structuring agents and for use in association with polymers for functional materials in fields such as energy.  It thus seems highly appropriate to unite these two communities that have historically had little contact and establish a forum for exchanges that will facilitate the development of relevant research and development approaches.

The growing number of publications devoted to the subject bear witness to the growing interest of polymerists in ionic liquids, as shown in Figure 5. On the other hand, scientific conferences relating to ionic liquids – for example, the “4th Congress on Ionic Liquids” in Virginia (USA) in June 2011 and the “1st International Conference on ILs in Separation and Purification Technology” at Sitges in Spain in September 2011 – are only directed at the ionic liquids community and bear no relation at all to polymer applications.

figure 5
Figure 5. Changes in the number of publications per year corresponding to the key words: “Ionic Liquids” and “Polymers” (source: WOS December 2011)

In the framework of its scientific events, the Polymer Materials Engineering Laboratory (Laboratoire Ingénierie des Matériaux Polymères – UMR  5223) organised a scientific colloquium on this same topic: “Ionic Liquids & Polymers” at Villerbanne on 8 November 2010. This colloquium, introduced by guest lecturers and based on talks by several members of UMR 5223, sought to present an overview of the current situation in the chemistry field at the local and international levels and of the use of ionic liquids for polymers during their synthesis and implementation.  At the end of this event, it was decided to create an “Ionic Liquids and Polymers” Research Consortium in order to open up new prospects for research in the field of polymers associated with ionic liquids by establishing collaborations between the Ionic Liquids and Polymers communities. Polymerists would like to demystify the “magic” nature of ILs by using the expertise of the Ionic Liquids Community to help them clearly identify the role of the cation and anion in determining the properties associated with polymers.  The association of ionic liquids with the polymer medium also offers the opportunity for the Ionic Liquids community to increase the number of study systems and be able to design ILs for associations with polymers (ILs in the presence of promising solvents, monomers, polymers and any other organic or inorganic additives to polymers) that will help to enhance their knowledge of the physico-chemical and thermodynamic properties of ionic liquids in interaction with polymers.  A precise understanding of the interactions between ILs and polymers will ensure a suitable IL – polymer combination for developing an optimised material with the guarantee of good properties that can offer new fields of application for ionic liquids in association with polymers. The association of laboratories and research centres interested in integrating these IL-Polymer systems into applications is also required for the development of pertinent research in this field.

The aim of this Research Consortium is to create a dynamic, interdisciplinary community with a high profile at the national, European and international levels, which responds to developments in the sector by bringing together academic and industrial research stakeholders in pursuit of the goals of coordination and forward planning for “ionic liquid and polymer associations”. The LIPS Research Consortium currently includes 27 research laboratories and two industrial partners (Solvionic and CEA).