A team led by Stephen Z.D. Cheng, Ph.D., professor at The University of Akron's college of polymer science and polymer engineering, designed and synthesized the new polymer molecules called tetrahedrons, a solid with four equal triangular faces. Through a reaction called "click chemistry," these tetrahedron building blocks can then be precisely manipulated to unite with other tetrahedrons.
"It had never been done before in soft matter, where it's engineering could be particularly useful," explains Cheng, "and it took 3 years to design."
"This research quite possibly marks the first time we have documented this experimental transformation from nano-sized giant tetrahedral to supramolecular lattices," said Joe Akkara, a materials science program director from the National Science Foundation, which funded the research. "This class of new hybrid materials could be custom designed for many functional materials including applications in nano-technologies "
The team's work opens the door to developing new materials for applications not yet imagined, such as electric, magnetic and optic functions. Over the next couple of years, they will work with a variety of industries to identify practical uses for this scientific breakthrough.
Cheng and his experts have received a $700,000, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation to continue pursuing this new pathway for designing and constructing the novel macromolecule.
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