Small changes with big effects: Tuning polymer properties with supramolecular interactions
For biological polymers like DNA and proteins, supramolecular interactions dictate the folding and assembly of the polymer chains. Advances in synthetic polymer chemistry enable the synthesis of polymers of defined length and composition, but the field has yet to reach the same level of sophistication as nature's polymers. However, the incorporation of just a few supramolecular interactions into a synthetic polymer chain can drastically change the manner in which the polymer assembles and interacts, thereby altering the properties of a polymeric material. This highlight will focus on approaches wherein a low-density of supramolecular functionalities (<10 wt %) were used per polymer chain. How the selection of the appropriate supramolecular functionality (based on the directionality and strength of the interaction), along with the location of these groups on a polymer chain, can afford a spectrum of material properties has been highlighted. At one end, the supramolecular motif can dramatically alter the elasticity of a material, and at the other, the motif can have a more subtle effect like increasing the stability of a micelle.