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Startling results in synthetic chemistry presented in Nature Chemistry
Date:2/14/2012

This press release is available in German.

Back in 1920 at ETH Zurich, the chemist Hermann Staudinger postulated the existence of macromolecules consisting of many identical modules strung together like a chain. His concept was initially greeted with mockery and incomprehension from his fellow chemists. But Staudinger was to be proved right (and eventually even awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1953): today the macromolecules described as polymers are known as plastics, and by 1950 one kilogram of them was already being produced per capita worldwide. Today, more than ninety years after Staudinger's discovery about 150 million tons of plastics are manufactured every year a gigantic industry delivering products that our daily lives can hardly do without. A research group led by ETH Zurich scientists A. Dieter Schlter and Junji Sakamoto has now succeeded in making a decisive breakthrough in the synthetic chemistry of polymers: they have for the first time created two-dimensional polymers.

Polymers are formed when small single molecules known as monomers join together by chemical reactions like the links of a chain to form high molecular weight substances. The question remained as to whether polymers can only polymerize linearly, i.e. in one dimension. Although graphene counts as a naturally occurring representative of a two-dimensional polymer planar layers of carbon with a honeycomb-like pattern it cannot be synthesized in a controlled way. In order to develop a synthetic chemistry that generates two-dimensional molecules the ETH chemists had to first and foremost create oligofunctional monomers in such a way that they join together purely two-dimensionally instead of linearly or even three-dimensionally. Polymers of this kind must have three or more covalent bonds between the regularly repeating units. The scientists had to find out which
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Contact: Dr. Rolf Erni
rolf.erni@empa.ch
41-587-654-080
Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA)
Source:Eurekalert  

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