New Polymeric Materials

Several members of the Moore group are working on projects related to development of novel polymeric materials to meet the challenges of today`s world. We are specifically interested in generation of polymers for applications ranging from compartmentalization and on-demand release of actives, transientmaterials for targeted microdelivery, and recyclable performance plastics.


Transient Materials

This project investigates methods and materials for production of transient engineering plastics and targeted microdelivery systems. We are developing a library of metastable polymers and exploring new triggering modes and concepts that activate rapid transience (< 5 minutes) for a variety of applications. Previously focused on development of transient electronics packaging systems, research has expanded to include development of microcapsule-based systems for the microscale delivery of chemical payloads to surface targets and the production of bulk, monolithic transient thermoplastics.

Research on transient materials spans a variety of topics, including mechanism, devices, and materials processing.

Current mechanistic investigations have led to the development of novel triggering systems, allowing rapid degradation of performance plastics into recyclable monomers by application of heat, chemical agents, or even light. Mechanistic information is also crucial in the development of functional devices for microscale delivery-Tang has demonstrated a novel AND-gated delivery system that shows

promise for the design of complex autonomic materials systems. Finally, we are also applying these advances to the production of bulk transient materials. We recently reported the first demonstration of large form factor engineering thermoplastics with transient functionality. Ongoing research seeks to further refine material processing and develop large-scale devices that utilize this transient behavior. 

graphic of microcapsules
AND-Gate technology for targeted microdelivery using the specific ion co-activation effect observed by Tang to rupture cyclic poly(phthalaldehyde) microcapsules.


graphic of bulk transient material
Thermoforming a bulk transient material. The polymer blend is stable in ambient conditions, but rapidly degrades when exposed to acid or sufficient heat.

Compartmentalization and On-demand Release

Compartmentalization is a powerful concept in biology that enables organisms to isolate and carry out multiple functions in an interdependent fashion. The growing needs of isolation and targeted delivery of actives require development of next generation synthetic compartmentalized systems. To meet these needs, our group is actively researching the synthesis and development of new stimuli-responsive polymeric materials that can rapidly and irreversibly depolymerize on triggering. Such criteria can be met via the development of polymers that are thermodynamically unstable at room temperature, yet kinetically trapped. We are currently exploring a variety of new depolymerizable polymer architectures, while also exploiting the use of known polymers that possess such qualities in pursuit of applications such as packaging of transient electronics, disappearing materials, shell-walls for triggerable microcapsules, and polymeric materials capable of remodeling or shape-changing phenomena.

Efficient encapsulation of active cargo is another of our research interests. Emulsion templated encapsulation relies on discrete control of the emulsifier as well as the continuous and discontinuous phases. Unlike conventional oil-in water emulsions, the encapsulation of hydrophilic actives via water-in-oil emulsions, i.e. inverse emulsion, is far less studied. Our goal is a basic understanding of how metastable emulsions are formed and further locked down via interfacial polymerization with different techniques, including microfluidics. From this stand point, we are targeting applications in encapsulation of curing agents and on-demand release.

graphic of microencapsulation
Microencapsulation of reactive chemical payloads and triggered release.

Touch-and-Go Reactions

Here the concepts of catalysis and initiation are applied to a pair of polymer interfaces. Our idea for a "touch-and-go" (TAG) reaction is that two components of a catalyst are grafted to different surfaces; when the surfaces come into contact or "touch," catalyst formation occurs, causing the reaction to proceed or "go." Thus, molecular reactions are controlled by the spatial proximity of macroscopic or microscopic objects. Recent research has proved the feasibility of TAG reactions, while further research seeks to quantify the parameters that influence rates. We are exploring various reactions, surface topographies, and applications.