Researchers Refine Biomimetic Polymer Synthesis

May 11, 2012 | Contact Author | By: Rachel Grabenhofer
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Title: Researchers Refine Biomimetic Polymer Synthesis
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In a study from the University of Warwick published in the journal Nature Chemistry, researchers from the UK and Australia describe a new method to synthesize polymers. According to a university press release, this biomimetic approach will offer unprecedented control over the final polymer structure, ultimately advancing nanomedicine and related fields. Based on segregation and templating, two natural approaches that direct complex biological processes, the new approach is said to enhance structure control.

Segregation improves biochemical control in organisms’ cells by organizing reactants, whereas the transfer of genetic information is a primary function of templating. Rachel O’Reilly, professor at the university, explained that the ability to synthesize polymers with such precision will enable the creation of tailor-made polymers for specific needs, with major applications in materials chemistry, nanotechnology and nanomedicine.

Polymers comprise thousands of monomers bonded together in a chain-like structure. They can have different properties depending on their constituent parts. One way of growing these chains is through a process known as radical polymerization, whereby a free radical initiates chain growth by adding to a monomer unit. However, conventional radical polymerization yields polymers with ill-defined structures. This approach better controls molecular weight distributions, gives access to higher molecular weights, and offers potential to control tacticity and monomer sequence distribution. 

As noted, polymers have various structures that define their function. In personal care, they often are employed in rheology and conditioning in skin in hair care. This new level of precision in their manufacture, however, bodes well for the expansion of polymers and their capabilities in personal care.