PITTSBURGHScientists led by Carnegie Mellon University chemist Krzysztof Matyjaszewski are using electricity from a battery to drive atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP), a widely used method of creating industrial plastics. The environmentally friendly approach, reported in the April 1 issue of Science, represents a breakthrough in the level of control scientists can achieve over the ATRP process, which will allow for the creation of even more complex and specialized materials.
ATRP, first developed by Matyjaszewski in 1995, allows scientists to easily form polymers by putting together component parts, called monomers, in a controlled piece-by-piece fashion. Assembling polymers in such a manner has allowed scientists to create a wide range of polymers with highly specific, tailored functionalities. ATRP has been used to develop cosmetics, coatings, adhesives and drug delivery systems, and is used to develop "smart" materials those that respond to environmental changes, such as changes in temperature, light, pressure or pH.
The current study represents the latest in a series of advances Matyjaszewski's research group has made since ATRP's inception that make the technique more precise and more environmentally friendly. In a process they are calling electrochemically mediated ATRP, or eATRP, the researchers used a computer-controlled battery to apply an electrochemical potential across the ATRP reaction.
"This marks the first time that we've paired electrochemistry with ATRP, and the results were startlingly successful," said Matyjaszewski, the J.C. Warner Professor of Natural Sciences at CMU. "We found that by adjusting the current and voltage we could slow and speed up, or even start and stop the reaction on-demand. This gives us a great deal more flexibility in conducting our reactions that should lead to the development of precisely engineered materials."
In traditional ATRP reactions scientists use a c
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Carnegie Mellon University