Mechanically-Triggered Heterolytic Unzipping of a Low Ceiling Temperature Polymer

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.

Electrochemical Characterization of Azolium Salts

Redox properties of a series of azolium salts, including benzothiazolium, thiazolinium, thiazolium, triazolium, imidazolium, and imidazolinium salts, have been systematically investigated. The series includes a broad range of N-arylthiazolium salts that collectively demonstrate the ability to fine-tune the reduction potential of the thiazolium ring via electronic modification of the N-aryl moiety. Additionally, a novel class of N-arylthiazolinium salts has been synthesized and characterized. In contrast to what has been observed for imidazolium and imidazolinium counterparts, saturation of the thiazolium backbone to give thiazolinium salts results in a more facile electrochemical reduction.

Organocatalyzed Anodic Oxidation of Aldehydes to Thioesters

A method has been developed for the direct conversion of aldehydes to thioesters via integration of organocatalysis and electrosynthesis. The thiazolium precatalyst was found to facilitate oxidation of thiolate anions, leading to deleterious formation of disulfide byproducts. By circumventing this competing reaction, thioesters were obtained in good-to-excellent yields for a broad range of aldehyde and thiol substrates. This approach provides an atom-efficient thioesterification that circumvents the need for stoichiometric exogenous oxidants, high cell potentials, or redox mediators.

Successive Mechanochemical Activation and Small Molecule Release in an Elastomeric Material

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.

“Flex-Activated” Mechanophores: Using Polymer Mechanochemistry To Direct Bond Bending Activation

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.

Controlled Depolymerization: Stimuli-Responsive Self-Immolative Polymers

Self-immolative polymers (SIPs) are unique macromolecules that are able to react to multiple types of environmental influences by giving amplified response outputs. When triggering moieties installed at SIP chain ends are activated by their corresponding stimuli, a spontaneous head-to-tail depolymerization ensues, often involving multitopic release of small molecules. SIP designs have evolved a high degree of modularity in each of their functional components, enabling a broad range of utility and applications-driven tuning. In this Perspective, we summarize and discuss recent progress in this nascent area of research, including (i) synthesis of different types of SIPs, (ii) design and evaluation of triggering moieties, (iii) depolymerization mechanisms and kinetics, (iv) applications of SIPs, and (v) outlook and challenges facing the field.

Organocatalyzed Anodic Oxidation of Aldehydes

A method for the catalytic formation of electroauxiliaries and subsequent anodic oxidation has been developed. The process interfaces N-heterocyclic carbene-based organocatalysis with electro-organic synthesis to achieve direct oxidation of catalytically generated electroactive intermediates. We demonstrate the applicability of this method as a one-pot conversion of aldehydes to esters for a broad range of aldehyde and alcohol substrates. Furthermore, the anodic oxidation reactions are very clean, producing only H2 gas as a result of cathodic reduction.