Technological watch

New Fusilli-shaped Polymers with Post-polymerization Modification Potential

A consortium of scientists has developed a novel way to form tailor-made polymers with well-defined helicities (like DNA). It also offers a handle for further functionalization through similar, mild click reactions. The new kind of click chemistry has led to the discovery of fusilli-shaped polymers.
The consortium includes of a team of 16 scientists from the USA, China, Australia, Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands, including inventor of click chemistry K. Barry Sharpless and professor Han Zuilhof, chair of organic chemistry at Wageningen University & Research.
Added Functionality and Advanced Applications
This chemical reaction can be considered a breakthrough in the formation and manipulation of high-end polymers. The fusilli-like shape adds extra functionality to the material, such as better adhesion. Ultimately it can lead to advanced, smart packaging materials and pharmaceuticals.
Zuilhof is very pleased with the results of the research, “The fusilli-like shape adds extra functionality to the material but does make it more difficult to modify by traditional chemistries. We can now create a polymer that already has interesting properties and a beautiful structure, but on top of that also allows the efficient attachment of other materials onto it by using mild click chemistries. That means that instead of interfering with the building blocks that are used to form the polymer backbone itself, this can now be done afterwards. This process of post-polymerization modification also enables us to create many different kind of polymers from one single backbone. This type of click chemistry opens up a legion of possibilities to create polymers with different functionalities.”
Zuilhof compares click chemistry to building with LEGO, “Different parts can be clicked on and you can build from there. This is a gentle process and can also be done with fragile building blocks. For instance, a bioactive material, such as peptides or antiviral agents, can be fragile and won’t survive the process of polymerization or stay attached. We have now created an extra molecular tool to first create the building blocks and after that click on the materials. Having this handle opens a lot of doors to new materials and adds an extra option to the toolbox of 21st-century chemists.”

Source: Wageningen University & Research

Publication date: 19/08/2021

Omnexus (news)


This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 837761.