Zwitterions Raise the Dielectric Constant of Soft Materials

Wenwen Mei, August J. Rothenberger, Joshua E. Bostwick, Joshua M. Rinehart, Robert J. Hickey, Ralph H. Colby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Materials exhibiting high dielectric constants (ϵs) are critical for energy storage and actuators. A successful approach to increase ϵs is to incorporate polar additives (with high ϵs) but controlling the resulting dispersion state is difficult. Here, we show that significant ϵs increases are realized by adding zwitterions, which are small molecules with a cation and an anion separated by covalent bonds. The increase in ϵs with zwitterion addition is attributed to the large molecular dipole of zwitterions, ranging from 35 to 41 D, as experimentally quantified and confirmed using density functional theory. At elevated zwitterion concentration in an ethylene glycol medium, there is a nonlinear increase of ϵs that eventually saturates due to the strong Coulombic interactions between zwitterions. The presented work provides a fundamental molecular understanding of why zwitterions are effective additives in boosting ϵs in soft materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number228001
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 24 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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