Shape and Dimensional Precision in Polymeric Nanostructures

Project: Research project

Project Details


Precise dimension and shape control remains a great challenge in the design of covalent
and supramolecular polymers. Learning from the complex structures seen in nature has
been one of the major goals of modern materials research. The motivation is to design
new, sophisticated materials such as artificial molecular motors for electronics, energy,
or sensing devices and also biomedical materials to repair tissues and organs. The
work cuts across physical sciences, life sciences, and engineering disciplines, and it is
therefore an excellent platform for education of future scientists and for international
collaborations. The proposed work focuses on controlling the size and shape of
supramolecular polymers by carefully designing their monomeric subunits. This proposal
focuses on establishing new approaches to create well-defined hybrid structures that
integrate covalent polymers with supramolecular polymers using a novel templating
effect in which monomers are co-polymerized with monomers that are isostructural with
segments of the covalent polymer.
Intellectual Merit:
The intellectual merit of the proposal lies in learning how to define the size and shape
as well as functionality of polymers based on the strong and directional interactions
between monomers of a supramolecular component and a macromolecular template.
An investigation of hybrid polymers is proposed in which the supramolecular component
will be integrated with its covalent template to generate a structure with two
compartments. The supramolecular compartment is stabilized by noncovalent
interactions and could therefore easily deliver its components to an environment. The
remaining covalent template could then be used to reconstitute the hybrid structure with
additional monomer. In another strategy, the formation of complex structures will be
seeded by the hybrid described above. The hybrid’s shape could be controlled by
structural details, for example spherical versus cylindrical, and further nucleation of
supramolecular polymers would give rise to complex shapes. In these structures, there
would also be highly dynamic supramolecular components integrated with covalent
polymers. In order to investigate the potential functionality of hybrid covalent–
noncovalent polymers, the proposal also includes the formation of systems in which the
chemistry of the template includes electron donors and electron acceptors whereas the
supramolecular component only contains electron acceptor chemistry. These systems
are great models for novel function since they have the types of architectures that could
of interest in photovoltaics or ferroelectric materials.
Broader Impacts:
The proposed work will have broad impact on the interdisciplinary education of
graduate students in materials research, since each of the proposed projects operates at
the interface of synthetic chemistry, physics, and materials science. Several students
from underrepresented groups are receiving this training in the PI's laboratory and the
proposed program could greatly extend this effort. Furthermore, the proposed work will
offer opportunities for graduate students and post-docs to engage in outreach with high
school students and with the broader community.
Effective start/end date7/1/156/30/21


  • National Science Foundation (DMR-1508731)


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