A slow-motion method of controlling the synthesis of polymers, inspired by trees and Celtic Knot designs, could open up new possibilities in areas including medical devices, drug delivery, elastics, and adhesives, say an Irish research team.
Scientists at the Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials in the National University of Ireland Galway say that their new polymerization technique could be used to create complex, multi-functional, branched compounds, and allow them to tailor polymer properties, such as structure, functionality, strength, size, density and degradation with ease.
The researchers use their technique to build up “Celtic Knots”, materials having chains that only link to themselves in an interlaced pattern. In addition, the new technique can also create hyper-branching polymers, which spread outwards like trees.
They say that for the first time, tree-like polymers can be synthesized in bulk, with branch points after every few monomers of the build process, which allows a far higher degree of branching than previously obtainable, and opens up new possibilities for the use of polymers for biomedical applications such as cross-linkable hydrogel materials and skin adhesives.