Royal Society of Chemistry Selects Article by Yanfei Xu and Students for ‘Most Popular Papers of 2022’

The Royal Society of Chemistry has chosen a paper by Assistant Professor Yanfei Xu and her students in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department for a prestigious collection of the 20 most popular papers of 2022 in the journal Polymer Chemistry. Xu’s paper, “State-of-the-art, opportunities, and challenges in bottom-up synthesis of polymers with high thermal conductivity,” can be found on the Polymer Chemistry Most Popular 2022 website. Xu’s article was first published in Polymer Chemistry on June 14, 2022.

NEWS Yanfei Xu
Yanfei Xu

Polymer Chemistry is one of more than 50 scientific journals published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, which selected these 20 most popular articles based on citations, the number of full-text downloads, and their presence online through social media or on news outlets. The other authors of Xu’s highlighted paper were her Ph.D. students in the MIE department, Yurui Liu and Yijie Zhou.

Among other contributions, Xu’s paper underscores the future prospects for creating polymers with metal-like thermal conductivity, which can be used in numerous future applications such as micro-electronic cooling, energy storage and conversion, biomedical imaging, solar cells, and much more.

As Xu and her other authors explain the background of their paper, “In contrast to metals, polymers are predominantly thermal and electrical insulators. With their unparalleled advantages such as light weight and flexibility, turning polymer insulators into heat conductors with metal-like thermal conductivity is of substantial interest and technological importance for heat dissipation applications.”

However, as the authors point out, the issue of engineering bulk polymers with ultrahigh thermal conductivity currently remains a difficulty. Moreover, thermal transport mechanisms are not fully understood.

“In this review and perspective,” as Xu and her students write, “we first discuss the present understanding of thermal transport mechanisms in polymers. Then, we discuss various bottom-up synthesis strategies aimed at achieving highly thermally conductive polymers with representative examples.”

Furthermore, as the three authors say about their paper, “We investigate relationships between polymer structures and thermal transport properties. We highlight current challenges within the design and synthesis of highly thermally conductive polymers. We also suggest future endeavors regarding research challenges in thermally conductive polymers.”

As Xu’s team concludes, one very important contribution of the paper is that “we emphasize the potential possibilities and inspiring opportunities for future applications of thermally conductive polymers with metal-like thermal conductivity.”

Xu heads the Advanced Polymer Engineering @ Xu (APEX) laboratory.

As Xu explains about the research in her lab, “We are an interdisciplinary research group of mechanical engineers, materials scientists, chemists, and physicists. Our mission is to advance the fundamental understanding of heat and charge transport in polymers, to create polymers with improved thermal conductivity and electrical insulation for better micro-electronic cooling, and to create others with improved thermal and electrical conductivity for better energy storage and conversion, as well as biomedical temperature imaging and higher solar cell efficiency.”