The effect of star versus linear polymer architecture on the rates of mechanochemically induced bond scission has been explored. We determined rate constants for chain scission of parent linear and star polymers, from which daughter fragments were cleanly resolved. These studies confirm a mechanistic interpretation of star polymer chain scission that is governed by the spanning rather than total molecular weight. We further demonstrate the preserved rate of site-selective mechanophore activation across two different polymer structures. Specifically, we observed consistent activation rate constants from three-arm star and linear polymer analogues, despite the Mn of the star polymer being 1.5 times greater than that of the linear system.
Biological systems rely on recyclable materials resources such as amino acids, carbohydrates and nucleic acids. When biomaterials are damaged as a result of aging or stress, tissues undergo repair by a depolymerization–repolymerization sequence of remodelling. Integration of this concept into synthetic materials systems may lead to devices with extended lifetimes. Here, we show that a metastable polymer, end-capped poly(o-phthalaldehyde), undergoes mechanically initiated depolymerization to revert the material to monomers. Trapping experiments and steered molecular dynamics simulations are consistent with a heterolytic scission mechanism. The obtained monomer was repolymerized by a chemical initiator, effectively completing a depolymerization–repolymerization cycle. By emulating remodelling of biomaterials, this model system suggests the possibility of smart materials where aging or mechanical damage triggers depolymerization, and orthogonal conditions regenerate the polymer when and where necessary.
We have developed a mechanochemically responsive material capable of successively releasing small organic molecules from a cross-linked network upon repeated compressions. The use of a flex activated mechanophore that does not lead to main chain scission and an elastomeric polyurethane enabled consecutive compressions with incremental increases in the % mechanophore activation. Additionally, we examined the effect of multiple applications of compressive stress on both mechanophore activity and the mechanical behavior of the elastomeric matrix in which the mechanophore is embedded.
We describe studies in mechanochemical transduction that probe the activation of bonds orthogonal to an elongated polymer main chain. Compression of mechanophore-cross-linked materials resulted in the release of small molecules via cleavage of covalent bonds that were not integral components of the elongated polymer segments. The reactivity is proposed to arise from the distribution of force through the cross-linking units of the polymer network and subsequent bond bending motions that are consistent with the geometric changes in the overall reaction. This departure from contemporary polymer mechanochemistry, in which activation is achieved primarily by force-induced bond elongation, is a first step toward mechanophores capable of releasing side-chain functionalities without inherently compromising the overall macromolecular architecture.