Known for more than 150 years, polyaniline is the oldest and potentially one of the most useful conducting polymers because of its facile synthesis, environmental stability, and simple acid/base doping/dedoping chemistry. Because a nanoform of this polymer could offer new properties or enhanced performance, nanostructured polyaniline has attracted a great deal of interest during the past few years. This Account summarizes our recent research on the syntheses, processing, properties, and applications of polyaniline nanofibers. By monitoring the nucleation behavior of polyaniline, we demonstrate that high-quality nanofibers can be readily produced in bulk quantity using the conventional chemical oxidative polymerization of aniline. The polyaniline nano-structures formed using this simple method have led to a number of exciting discoveries. For example, we can readily prepare aqueous polyaniline colloids by purifying polyaniline nanofibers and controlling the pH. The colloids formed are self- stabilized via electrostatic repulsions without the need for any chemical modification or steric stabilizer, thus providing a simple and environmentally friendly way to process this polymer. An unusual nanoscale photothermal effect called "flash welding", which we discovered with polyaniline nanofibers, has led to the development of new techniques for making asymmetric polymer membranes and patterned nanofiber films and creating polymer-based nanocomposites. We also demonstrate the use of flash-welded polyaniline films for monolithic actuators. Taking advantage of the unique reduction/oxidation chemistry of polyaniline, we can decorate polyaniline nanofibers with metal nanopartides through in situ reduction of selected metal salts. The resulting polyaniline/metal nanopartide composites show promise for use in ultrafast nonvolatile memory devices and for chemical catalysis. In addition, the use of polyaniline nanofibers or their composites can significantly enhance the sensitivity, selectivity, and response time of polyaniline-based chemical sensors. By combining straightforward synthesis and composite formation with exceptional solution processability, we have developed a range of new useful functionalities. Further research on nanostructured conjugated polymers holds promise for even more exciting discoveries and intriguing applications.
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