Mechanochemistry in polymeric materials

This program focuses on bio-inspired mechanically responsive systems where chemo-mechanical transduction schemes generate new functions.

Biological processes, such as cell-cell contacts, cell motility or even haptic perception (touch) all rely on the conversion of mechanical stimuli into chemical energy. Building on our expertise in the field of mechano-responsive polymers, we are exploring a new family of polymeric materials that translate mechanical forces into chemical reactions. These reactions, in turn, are used to bestow polymers with unusual and previously unavailable functionalities, such as mechanical morphing, mechanically induced generation of light, mechanically controlled cell growth, auto-lubricating behavior, and the ability to release small molecules such as drugs, fragrances and antiseptics. Current research efforts include the design of new mechanically responsive motifs or “mechanophores”, the development of a predictive understanding for the relationships between the connectivity of such mechanophores with a matrix polymer, the morphology and mechanical properties of the system, and the mechanoresponse. Several mechanophores that rely on either homolytic (radical formation) or heterolytic cleavage of covalent bonds are being studied in this context. In parallel, non-covalent mechanophores based on excimer-forming dyes, cavitands, and supramolecular motifs such as metal-ligand complexes are being developed. The latter are particularly promising as they offer a great opportunity to control the strength of the complex through the metal-ligand interaction. This project is funded by an ERC Advanced Grant. Photo: Marc Karman/Adolphe Merkle Institute

Adolphe Merkle Institute - Chemin des Verdiers 4 - CH-1700 Fribourg - Phone +41 26 300 9254