Supramolecular Polymers and Compartmentalized Nanoparticles

A Two million euro grant has been provided to dr. Bert Meijer of the Eindhoven University of Technology. The grant allows Meijer to explore the area of non-covalent synthesis of functional supramolecular systems. These supramolecular systems can be seen as small molecular factories built from molecules connected via weak interactions. They possess unique properties and have a range of possible applications.

The research project will start early in 2010 and has two main directions. By studying the mechanisms of the formation of supramolecular polymers, the scope and limitations of this new class of polymer systems will be investigated. This knowledge will be used to design, synthesize and self-assemble materials that dynamically adapt their properties upon external stimuli. These materials will also be applied as biomaterials in close cooperation with dr. Patricia Dankers of the TU/e, to make parts of a prototype bioartificial kidney. Hopefully this will lead to an improvement of current dialysis techniques and later maybe also to portable dialysis equipment.

Another challenge is in the in the realization of compartmentalized nanoparticles, molecular factories with multiple functionalities united in one very long and folded molecule. In order to achieve the best possible polymer systems, novel techniques to synthesize well-defined polymers with controlled sequence are introduced

Meijers group introduced a new class of materials, called supramolecular polymers. He showed for the first time that polymers, that are not consisting of long chains in which the repeating units are bound by strong (covalent) interactions but connected by weaker (non-covalent) interactions, can have very good and unique materials properties. The research foreseen will allow him to make the next step in the development of these materials and to introduce more complex functionalities to these supramolecular systems.