Polymers are everywhere around us. Often referred to as "plastics", these macromolecules find applications in all aspects of our daily life, as well as advanced technologies. When it comes to research, our aim is to make new polymers and study their properties, targeting functions that are not accessible otherwise.
The following projects are available to Chemistry KIT undergraduates:
1. New polymer architectures: While textbooks often refer to copolymers as random, block, graft, or gradient, a new class of copolymers has emerged with the development of kinetically-controlled copolymerization. The project requires the preparation of building blocks that will dictate the kinetics and therefore allow the synthesis of such copolymers.
2. Synthesis of functional monomers: The most reliable way to attach a functional group onto a polymer chain, is by utilising a monomer that carries that group as a building block. The project entails the selection of the functional group (several options available, including -but not limited to- hydrogen-bonding moieties), the development of a synthetic approach for the preparation of a styrenic and/or (meth)acrylate and/or norbornene monomer, complete characterization of the product(s), and (co)polymerization with a suitable commercially-available monomer.
3. Chemistry on a chain: A typical synthesis of a small molecule requires a solvent, the substrates, a catalyst, some time, and then purification by chromatography, recrystallization, or distillation. Things change when one of the substrates is part of a polymer chain. The aim of this project is to compare a "typical" organic reaction carried out in solution and on a polymer chain, with respect to the kinetics, the yield, as well as special parameters, e.g. stereoselectivities.
4. Controlled polymerizations: Over the last 20 years many techniques have been developed that allow the easy preparation of well-defined polymers. The aim here is to evaluate certain aspects of each polymerization technique and test their limitations. These can include: multifunctionality of initiators, tolerance to functional groups/impurities, copolymerizability of monomers, with the overarching goal being the preparation of polymers with novel functions.