Thrust 1: Chemistry of the Network Strand
In this Thrust, we will combine new insights with new synthetic methods to create strands that use chemical responses to adapt and grow longer when they are about to break. We will employ precision polymer synthesis to make individual strands whose behavior we can control, and we will characterize the exact molecular structure of networks made from them. We will establish methods that allow us to directly and quantitatively link the chemistry of the strands to the properties of the polymer networks. Because remarkable properties can now be built into the strands, we expect that this effort will enable similarly remarkable properties to be realized in materials.
Thrust 2: Chemistry of the Network Junction
Polymer networks with exchangeable strands (“dynamic networks”), are undergoing a renaissance in both academia and industry. This reemergence presents an exciting opportunity for chemistry, as the strand exchanges are chemical reactions that involve noncovalent or dynamic covalent bonds, and the dynamic network is therefore quite literally a network of chemical reactions. In this Thrust, our team will use our unprecedented molecular control of reaction dynamics and network junction structure to probe new chemical design principles that regulate desirable network properties, including rapid self-healing (strand re-attachment) in materials with high stiffness (slow junction diffusion).