Carnegie Mellon University chemists create versatile polymer brushes

Carnegie Mellon University scientists are creating molecularly engineered polymer brushes using a revolutionary catalytic polymerization procedure developed in their laboratory. These nanoscale brushes have numerous potential applications in a number of fields, including medicine, computers and environmental engineering, according to Krzysztof Matyjaszewski, professor of chemistry at Carnegie Mellon and director of the Center for Macromolecular Engineering at the Mellon College of Science. Professor Matyjaszewski is presenting his most recent findings on these nanoscale marvels Tuesday, March 25, in the opening lecture of a session on polymer brushes at the American Chemical Society's (ACS) 225th annual meeting in New Orleans.

"These controlled nano-structures are manufactured using atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP), which is an exceptionally robust way to uniformly control the growth of every polymer chain, while employing a broad range on monomers. ATRP allows one to design materials with specific chemical and architectural features," says Matyjaszewski. Using ATRP, his laboratory has created polymeric brushes with gradient compositional densities that force a material to alter its response to the changing environment, such as temperature or pressure, in highly selective ways.

Bottle-brush structures are created in the Matyjaszewski lab by growing the bristle-like strands of one polymer type (for instance, polyacrylates or polyacrylamides) from a backbone of another polymer (such as a polymethacrylate) (see Figure 1). They are very similar in structure to proteoglycans found in the cartilage protecting our joints. Some of these novel materials are considered supersoft elastomeric materials because they are 100 times softer than rubber.

"The only materials as soft as these supersoft brushes are hydrogels, but unlike existing hydrogels, which are used in materials like contact lenses, these materials won't 'dry out' when their e

Contact: Lauren Ward
Carnegie Mellon University

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