MONET addresses a longstanding knowledge gap: there is currently no direct and quantitative method to connect the single molecular behavior of the components of a polymer network to the full range of physical behaviors of that network. In doing so, we address an additional, longstanding conceptual gap: strands and junctions that are simultaneously structurally active and chemically reactive hold the key to dynamic materials with enhanced operational performance and improved end-of-life value. Filling these gaps will disrupt preconceived notions of what polymer networks are capable of, by making low-flow structural thermosets recyclable and reprocessable, soft hydrogels as strong as steel, and lending to soft polymer networks the catalytic abilities of hard solid-state materials.
We envision a legacy of transformation on three different fronts.
- Fundamental chemical advances. By making direct and quantitative connections between the chemistry of a polymer network’s individual components and the full range of its physical behaviors, we will recast a major field of study as a fully chemistry-centered sub-discipline that extends our understanding and application of fundamental chemical principles.
- Conceptual advances. The impact of new forms of embedded covalent response, such as reactive strand extension, on network properties will lead to never-before-seen improvements in the limits to which polymer gels and elastomers can be stretched and the energy they can absorb.
- Technological advances. Chemical methods for network remodeling will rewrite existing end-of-life rules for polymer network materials, by combining the properties of existing thermosets with efficient resetting and recycling to improve performance, extend lifetime, and minimize waste stream.