Exploring Multiple Hydrogen Bonding and Ionic Bonding in the Design of Supramolecular Polymers

dc.contributor.authorChen, Xien
dc.contributor.committeechairLong, Timothy E.en
dc.contributor.committeememberAshkar, Ranaen
dc.contributor.committeememberEdgar, Kevin J.en
dc.contributor.committeememberMoore, Robert Bowenen
dc.description.abstractSupramolecular polymers represent a family of polymeric materials that are held together with dynamic, noncovalent interactions. In contrast to conventional functional polymers that usually have high melt-viscosity due to their covalent nature and chain entanglement, supramolecular polymers combine excellent physical properties with low melt-viscosity, allowing for less energy-intensive processability and recyclability. Dynamic bonding with multiple binding sites, such as multiple hydrogen bonding or multiple ionic bonding, exhibits much stronger binding strength compared to the counterparts containing only a single binding site, thereby allowing for enhanced mechanical integrity to the polymers and facilitate self-assembly. This dissertation focuses on the design of novel supramolecular polymers building from the doubly-charged or quadruple hydrogen bonding (QHB) scaffolds utilizing chain-growth polymerization or step-growth polymerization, as well as elucidate the structure-property-morphology relationships of the polymers. A 2-step nucleophilic substitution reaction afforded a series of 1,4-diazabicyclo[2.2.2]octane (DABCO)-based styrenic monomers with two pairs of charged groups. An optimized 2-step reversible-addition-fragmentation chain-transfer (RAFT) polymerization synthesized ABA triblock thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) with a low Tg poly (n-butyl acrylate) central block and a high Tg external charged blocks. Strong ionic interactions between doubly-charged units drove molecular self-assembly to form densely packed, hierarchical microstructures, which contributed to a robust, crosslinked physical network that allows the polymer to retain thermomechanical integrity until degradation. High-resolution single-crystal X-ray diffraction (SCXRD) coupled with powder X-ray diffraction (PXRD) further disclosed a detailed 3-D structural information of molecular arrangement and ion distribution within the charged phase through comparing DABCO-salt monomer single-crystal structure and the corresponding homopolymer XRD pattern. It was found that the physical properties of the DABCO-salt copolymers not only relied on their charge content and architectures but also dependent on their electrostatically-bonded counterions. The size and structure of the counterion determined the strength of dipole-dipole interaction, which significantly impact on thermal property, (thermo)mechanical performance, water affinity, and microstructure. A cytosine-functionalized monomer, cytosine acrylate (CyA), allowed the synthesis of acrylic ABA triblock TPEs with pendant nucleobase moieties in the external blocks and a low Tg central polymer matrix through RAFT polymerization. Post-functionalization of cytosine (Cyt) bidentate hydrogen bonding sites with alkyl isocyanate, allowed the formation of ureido-cytosine (UCyt) groups in the external block that were readily dimerized through QHB interactions. The UCyt units in the external block enhanced mechanical strength and induced stronger phase-separation of the block copolymers compared to the corresponding Cyt-containing TPE analogs. Facile conventional free-radical polymerization using CyA and subsequent post-functionalization enabled accessibility to random copolymers containing pendant UCyt QHB moieties in the soft polymer matrix. The synergy of the flexible polymer matrix and the dynamic character of QHB groups contributed to the ultra-high elasticity of the polymer and rapid self-healing properties. QHB interactions enabled efficient mechanical recovery upon deformation by facilitating elastic chain retraction to regenerate the original physical network. Finally, one-pot step-growth polymerization through chain extending a novel bis-Cyt monomer and a commercially available polyether diamine using a di-isocyanate extender afforded segmented polyurea series for extrusion additive manufacturing. The molecular design of the polyureas featured soft segments containing flexible polyether chain and a relatively weak urea hydrogen bonding sites in the soft segment and rigid UCyt hydrogen bonding groups in the hard segment. The reversible characteristics of QHB enabled low viscosity at the processing temperature while providing mechanical integrity after processing and reinforced bonding between the interlayers, which contributed to the remarkable strength, elasticity, toughness, and interlayer adhesion of the printed parts.en
dc.description.abstractgeneralThis dissertation focuses on designing supramolecular thermoplastic elastomers containing strong noncovalent interactions, i.e., quadruple hydrogen bonds or double ionic bonds. Inspired from noncovalent interactions in our mother nature, a series of bio-inspired monomers functionalized with nucleobase or ionic units were synthesized through scalable reactions with minimal purification steps. Polymerization of the functional monomers through step-growth or chain-growth polymerization techniques affords a variety of supramolecular thermoplastic elastomers with well-defined structures and architectures. These thermoplastic elastomers comprise soft and hard constituents; the former contains low glass transition polymer chains that provide elasticity while the latter contains strong noncovalent units to impart mechanical strength. Varying the soft/hard component ratios enables polymers with tunable physical properties to address different needs. Systematic characterizations of these supramolecular polymers revealed their distinct properties from the polymers containing the covalent or weak noncovalent interactions and facilitate molecular-level understanding of the polymers. Generally, incorporating strong noncovalent interactions increases the temperature for polymer segmental motion and extends thermomechanical plateau windows. Additionally, the strong association strength of those non-covalent interactions promotes microphase separation and self-assembly, contributing to a high degree of structural ordering of the polymers. Moreover, the dynamic characteristics of the noncovalent interactions offer the polymers with reversible properties, which not only enables melt-processability and recyclability of the polymer but also contributes to a series of smart properties, including self-healing, shape-memory, and recoverability. Thus, the molecular design using supramolecular chemistry provides promising avenues to developing functional materials with enhanced mechanical properties, processability, and stimuli-responsiveness for emerging applications.en
dc.description.degreeDoctor of Philosophyen
dc.publisherVirginia Techen
dc.rightsIn Copyrighten
dc.subjectSupramolecular polymeren
dc.subjectnoncovalent interactionsen
dc.subjecthydrogen bondingen
dc.subjectionic interactionen
dc.subjectDABCO salten
dc.subjectstructure-property relationshipsen
dc.subjectblock copolymeren
dc.subjectthermoplastic elastomeren
dc.titleExploring Multiple Hydrogen Bonding and Ionic Bonding in the Design of Supramolecular Polymersen
thesis.degree.grantorVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State Universityen
thesis.degree.nameDoctor of Philosophyen


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