Inorganic Chemistry, Polymer Chemistry, Materials Science, Catalysis
Research in my group bridges the traditional areas of inorganic chemistry and polymer science. The development of synthetic methodologies to prepare new macromolecules with interesting structures and properties is a challenging frontier in chemistry. Most known polymers contain backbones composed of combinations of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, and their properties are tailored by structural modification of the side-group or the main-chain architecture. The incorporation of inorganic elements into the polymer backbone can lead to unique properties not obtainable by modification of known organic macromolecules. Notably, the industrially important silicones [R2SiO]n exhibit useful properties such as extreme low-temperature flexibility (below –100°C), excellent thermo-oxidative stability, and good biocompatibility.
In principle, it should be possible to prepare a wide range of polymers with interesting properties using various combinations of elements. Unfortunately, growth in inorganic polymer science has been hindered by the difficulty in finding suitable synthetic methods to link inorganic elements into long chains. In contrast, organic polymer science benefits from the numerous, and general, transformations of organic functional groups. For example, many important polymerization processes involve transformations of the C=C bonds in alkenes. The most recognizable of these is the addition polymerization of olefins to produce commodity polymers such as polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, PTFE and acrylic resins (see below). In addition, an emerging frontier in materials science involves incorporating C=C bonds into π-conjugated polymers such as polyacetylene or poly(p-phenylenevinylene) (PPV). These polymers are of interest in emissive displays (i.e. oLED’s). Despite the widespread utility of carbon-carbon multiple bonds in polymer chemistry, there is no analogous chemistry for inorganic multiple bonds of the heavier elements.