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Kent & Zhao’s Most Read Article

Shape Changing Brush Polymers Are Receiving Attention. 

Molecular bottlebrushes are complex polymers composed of polymeric side chains densely grafted on a relatively long backbone polymer. These types of polymers are found in our body and show important biological functions, e.g., joint lubrication by lubricin.

In an effort to develop smart polymers mimicking the function of the von Willebrand Factor, a protein important in the blood clotting cascade, Ethan W. Kent, a doctoral graduate student in Bin Zhao’s research laboratory, recently designed and synthesized dually responsive shape-changing star molecular bottlebrushes.

At acidic pH values and lower temperatures, the molecules take on a three-arm star shape with a span size of ~ 180 nm. When the pH is increased to basic or temperature is raised, the molecules undergo dramatic shape changes from stars to spheres with an average dimension of ~ 80 nm. 

“It is really cool to see these molecules change their shapes spontaneously,” Kent said. These brush polymers have potential in drug delivery, molecular actuators, and sensors. Ethan is currently applying his responsive brush polymers in sensors.

This work has been published in Macromolecules, an ACS journal in polymer science. The paper has been on the list of Most Read Articles in Macromolecules for nearly two months. “It is really exciting to see our paper garner a lot of attention” Kent said.