Sequence-defined Polymers: Engineering Materials with Biological Precision

01 January 2018 → Ongoing
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Engineering and technology
    • Ceramic and glass materials
    • Materials science and engineering
    • Semiconductor materials
    • Other materials engineering
Project description

Macromolecules are used by Life for functions such as energy and information storage,
replication, molecular recognition, or catalytic and electronic properties. In many cases, this is
only possible because the macromolecular chains have a precise sequence of chemical units,
by which the chains fold and assemble into controlled (secondary, tertiary and quaternary)
three-dimensional structures.
Inspired by this microstructural precision, polymer chemists are currently designing synthetic
polymers with similar chemical accuracy. However, despite progress on the control over the
primary structure, the controlled folding and assembly of synthetic polymers into a
predetermined 3D shape, via intramolecular interactions, has essentially not been achieved so
In this context, we propose a research program aiming at (1) developing efficient and scalable
synthetic routes for the synthesis of monodisperse, long and stereo-controlled sequencedefined
polymers comprising structuring groups and functional moieties; (2) experimentally
characterizing and predictively modelling the different levels of three-dimensional structure of
these polymer chains; and (3) demonstrating the relevance of this approach to attain new or
improved functional properties. We more specifically target systems with a) a higher catalytic
efficiency, or b) a better underwater adhesion, or c) an improved molecular recognition for
detection and sensing, or d) a stronger innate immune killing of cancer cells.