2018 Birch Lecture - Professor Kris Matyjaszewski - Carnegie Mellon University

Macromolecular Engineering (ME) can be defined as a process comprising rational design of (co)polymers with specific architecture and functionality, followed by precise and efficient polymer synthesis and processing in order to prepare advanced materials with target properties. Preparative ME requires controlled / living polymerization. Radical polymerization could be very well suited for ME  due to tolerance to many functionalities. Unfortunately, free radicals are difficult to be controlled, have very short life times (<1 s) and are involved in side reactions. Taming free radicals has been very challenging but was eventually accomplished by controlled/ living radical polymerization via dynamic equilibria between minute amounts of free radicals and large pool of dormant species. Copper-based ATRP (atom transfer radical polymerization) catalytic systems with polydentate nitrogen ligands are among most efficient controlled/living radical polymerization systems. Recently, by applying new initiating/catalytic systems, Cu level in ATRP was reduced to a few ppm. ATRP of acrylates, methacrylates, styrenes, acrylamides, acrylonitrile and other vinyl monomers was employed for macromolecular engineering of polymers with precisely controlled molecular weights, low dispersities, designed shape, composition and functionality. Examples of block, graft, star, hyperbranched, gradient and periodic copolymers, molecular brushes and organic-inorganic hybrid materials and bioconjugates prepared with high precision will be presented. These polymers can be used as components of various advanced materials such as health and beauty products, biomedical and electronic materials, coatings, elastomers, adhesives, surfactants, dispersants, lubricants, additives, or sealants. Special emphasis will be on nanostructured multifunctional hybrid materials for application related to environment, energy and catalysis.