Using the dynamic bond to access macroscopically responsive structurally dynamic polymers

Nat Mater. 2011 Jan;10(1):14-27. doi: 10.1038/nmat2891.


New materials that have the ability to reversibly adapt to their environment and possess a wide range of responses ranging from self-healing to mechanical work are continually emerging. These adaptive systems have the potential to revolutionize technologies such as sensors and actuators, as well as numerous biomedical applications. We will describe the emergence of a new trend in the design of adaptive materials that involves the use of reversible chemistry (both non-covalent and covalent) to programme a response that originates at the most fundamental (molecular) level. Materials that make use of this approach - structurally dynamic polymers - produce macroscopic responses from a change in the material's molecular architecture (that is, the rearrangement or reorganization of the polymer components, or polymeric aggregates). This design approach requires careful selection of the reversible/dynamic bond used in the construction of the material to control its environmental responsiveness.