Macromolecular Synthesis

Research News: Christina Rodriguez Awarded CAMP Special Merit Award

Christina Rodriguez, a chemistry undergraduate in the group, was awarded a Special Merit Award for her poster presentation at the California Alliance for Minority Participation (CAMP) Symposium in Irvine, CA. The title of Christina's poster was "Synthesis of heterobifunctional poly(ethylene glycol) for application in nanomedicine." The CAMP statewide symposium brings together more than 100 undergraduate researchers from the nine UC campuses throughout California. Congratulations, Christina!

Printable Thiol-ene Hydrogels

Many lab-on-chip applications use microarrays for the high-throughput screening of a range of materials, including biomolecules such as DNA and proteins, as well as living cells. To address some of the limitations of traditional printed microarrays, we have developed robust hydrogel-based systems with thiol-ene chemistry that enables covalent attachment strategies to be implemented in an orthogonal fashion.

A print of Thiol-ene Hydrogels

Ionically-driven Coacervate Hydrogels

Combining the power of oxyanionic polymerization and thiol-ene click chemistry, we can form hydrogels from a binary mixture of solutions containing fully watersoluble and oppositely-charged triblock copolymer precursors. The key to the physical associations in these materials derives from the charged end-blocks, which when combined in solution will phase-separate to form coacervate-domain crosslinks. These unique hydrogel materials are remoldable, injectable, require no cosolvents to form, and are responsive to pH and salt concentration.

Coacervate Hydrogels

Functional Polyethers

Polyethers, such as poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG), are widely used materials in established fields such as drug-delivery, and control of biocompatibility, and are becoming increasingly important in emerging technologies such as lithium-polymer batteries, and environmentally benign anti-biofouling coatings. A challenge with all PEG-based systems is the lack of functional handles along the polyether backbone. Using robust monomer syntheses, and highly controlled ring-opening (co) polymerizations, we are able to tailor the functionality of polyether materials toward applications in drug-delivery, and energy storage.

Functional Polyethers

Dendrimer in a Day

Dendrimer synthesis is often complicated and time-intensive.  We have developed a new divergent approach to dendrimer construction that relies on simple, robust, and orthogonal reactions such as thiol-ene coupling and copper catalyzed azide alkyne cycloaddition (CuAAC) chemistry to build functional dendritic macromolecules in a time-efficient process.

Ketenes as a Versatile Function Group in Polymer Chemistry

We introduce a robust and efficient strategy for exploiting the versatile reactivity of ketenes in polymer chemistry. New monomers have been developed which take advantage of Meldrum's acid as both a synthetic building block and thermolytic precursor to dialkyl dimerization, to act as a reactive chemical handle via addition, or both, providing a simple methodology for application in complex materials challenges. Such versatile characteristics are illustrated by covalent attaching and pattering of a dye through microcontact printing. The strategy highlights the significant opportunities afforded by traditionally neglected ketene functional groups in polymer chemistry.


Polyethers for Energy Storage

Polymer electrolytes may aid in the development of higher energy-density, and safely operating lithium-polymer batteries. We leverage our expertise in the design and synthesis of polyether materials to investigate replacements for poly(ethylene oxide); the state-of-the-art polymer electrolyte used in energy-storage since 1973. In the process, we study the relationship between polymer structure, properties, and ion transport in polyether materials.

Polyethers for Energy Storage