Martin Wolffs started in 2000 the study Chemical Engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology. In 2003 he obtained his bachelor degree cum laude and continued his masters in Molecular Engineering, which he finished cum laude in 2005. His undergraduate work was performed in the group of Prof. Dr. E. W. Meijer and was nomineed for the KIVI Niria award and laureated with the Mignot award in 2006. Starting from 2005 he performed his Ph. D. research in the group of Prof. Dr. E. W. Meijer and Dr. A. P. H. J. Schennin on the self-assembly of pi-conjugated systems. A short stay in the group of Dr. I. Huc in Bordeaux enabled him to study the synthesis and characterization of foldameric structures. He was awarded the Rubicon Fellowship in 2009 for a postdoctoral study in the group of Prof. Dr. C. J. Hawker at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Ketenes show enormous potential for application both as a crosslinker and as a functionalization site in polymeric architectures. However, the high reactivity of ketenes makes incorporation into monomers difficult. This can be circumvented by synthesizing monomers possessing ketene units that are protected by Meldrum’s acid. The stability of Meldrum acids derivatives to a large variety of polymerization conditions with and without commercial monomers was addressed. However, the most important limitation is the high temperature that is necessary to form the ketene. In this research structural modifications to the protecting group should allow milder thermolysis or even light-induced strategies for ketene formation to be developed and applied to homo and copolymers. In a second approach, bis-ketenes can be exploited as a synthetic pathway for polyester formation by reaction with monomers possessing bis-alcohol functionality. Since this strategy allows polyesters to be formed without the formation of water, it can potentially create very high molecular weight polyesters without any removal of water. Furthermore, the dimerization adduct of a ketene (cyclobutadiones) is exploited as a novel repeating unit in polymeric architectures.