Branched polymers, polymers that look like tiny tree branches, have great potential for water filtration, biomedical, nanoelectronics and other applications. Researchers have now found a better way to efficiently create these unique structures.
Led by the lab of Mingjiang Zhong, assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering and chemistry, the study is now published in Chemistry.
Polymers, which are made up of repeating units of small molecules to form a larger molecule, have various structures. Zhong is focused on developing polymers with branches, or side chains, that carry their own branches. A polymer structure with a higher degree of branching means it has a greater density of functionality without taking up more space.
A few years ago, Zhong developed a process for making these structures, also known as dendritic polymers. Their potential, however, was limited by the small-scale, moderate-efficiency synthesis process. Now, through a combination of mechanistic experiments and computer simulations, his lab can make them more efficient and with more control. With this process, they can be developed in an industrial environment. This is a necessary step to take these polymers beyond basic research and use them for practical applications.
“We want to synthesize well-controlled branched polymers because we want to mimic certain biosystems that have very precise structures,” said Mengxue Cao, a graduate student in Zhong’s lab and lead author of the study. “Our method can guarantee a controlled length and number of polymer branches.”
Much of the success of the work came from optimizing the method of converting monomers, the small molecules that make up polymers. Cao said they can now convert monomers with three times the efficiency.
In addition to conducting experiments in the laboratory, the researchers developed kinetic simulations, in which they considered the proposed data to see “how can we make the molecule more controlled and how can we potentially reduce the concentration of catalyst “.
Cao said that with an evolutionary process developed, the lab is now looking to use these unique materials, perhaps starting with water filtration.
“We already have a large library of monomers that we want to polymerize, which means we can make different functional materials with branching structures, so the next step could be putting these things into real applications,” she said. declared.
Synthesis of supramolecular polymers without solvent and self-modeling
Mengxue Cao et al, Expanding the toolbox of controlled/living branched radical polymerization through simulation-based reaction design, Chemistry (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.chempr.2022.02.022
Provided by Yale School of Engineering and Applied Science
Quote: Improved Method for Making Branched Polymers (May 16, 2022) Retrieved June 15, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-05-method-polymers.html
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