Ladder-like polymer that could halt electrical overheating divides opinion


Source: © Jie Che et al/Springer Nature Limited 2023

A new type of dual-backbone ‘ladderphane’ polymer that combines extremely high thermal conductivity with very low electrical conductivity has been reported by researchers in China and the US.1 The team believe their polymer could help to prevent overheating in the growing number of high-power applications such as vehicles and aerospace systems that use electricity as an energy source. But experts in the field are divided on the publication in Nature, and question whether the material is potentially useful or even whether the reported structure is correct.

Dielectric polymers are useful for capacitive charge storage as they are flexible, cheap and can sustain high electric fields before an arc discharge occurs and the material breaks down. At high power, however, significant heat is generated. If this heat is not dissipated, it can degrade the polymer and potentially lead to dangerous ‘thermal runaway’ – when the dielectric begins to break down, generating a positive feedback cycle of ever-greater heat production. Unfortunately, most polymers that conduct heat well also have significant electrical conductivity, which wastes energy.

Source:, via Chemistry World