Sydney, Australia - A new bio-inspired approach to synthesising polymers will offer unprecedented control over the final polymer structure and yield advances in nanomedicine, researchers say.
In a study published last week in the prestigious journal Nature Chemistry, researchers from the University of New South Wales in Sydney and the University of Warwick in the UK have outline a new method of polymer synthesis based on a combination of segregation and templating a pair of natural approaches that have evolved over billions of years to direct complex biological processes.
Segregation improves biochemical control in organisms' cells by organising reactants into defined, well-regulated environments, while the transfer of genetic information is a primary function of templating, states the paper.
"The ability to synthesise polymers with such precision and control will enable us to tailor-make polymers for specific needs, with major applications in materials chemistry, nanotechnology and nanomedicine," says co-author Associate Professor Per Zetterlund, Deputy Director of the Centre for Advanced Macromolecular Design (CAMD) in the School of Chemical Engineering at UNSW.
Polymers are large molecules comprising thousands of small molecules or monomers bonded together to form a chain-like structure. Polymers can have different properties and functionality depending on their constituent parts, and a range of high-tech applications.
One way of growing these chains is through a process known as radical polymerisation, which uses free radicals. These are molecules or atoms with unpaired electrons and are consequently very reactive. Free radicals initiate chain growth by adding to a monomer unit, explains Zetterlund. This generates a new radical that adds to the monomer unit again, and so on, in a continuing process.
However, conventional radical polymerisation yields polymers of ill-defined structure, says
|Contact: Myles Gough|
University of New South Wales