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Many properties of polymers are dictated by topology. However, the topology of a macromolecule is typically a static feature after synthesis. Now, an approach to dynamic and transformable macromolecular architecture has been developed. When triggered by an external stimulus, macromolecular topology can be triggered to transform via thermodynamic control.
The secondary and tertiary structure of a protein has profound implications on function and catalysis. Now, both the secondary and tertiary structures of a synthetic polymer have been utilized to catalyse the polymerization of N-carboxyanhydrides. Both the folding of the resulting polypeptides into α-helices and their macromolecular organization dramatically enhance the polymerization rate.
Ring-opening metathesis polymerization (ROMP) offers good control over dispersity, but the requirement of one initiator per chain can be expensive and problematic for purification. Now, a reversible cyclohexenyl-containing chain-transfer agent is described, thus allowing a catalytic living ROMP process to produce narrow dispersity polymers and block copolymers.
Chemists increasingly seek to control monomer sequencing in aperiodic copolymers. Here, the authors show that the statistical nature of chain growth strongly limits the achievable control, and establish parameters for polymer design that balance precise control with simplicity of synthesis.
Gold is not as inert as was believed — it can promote molecular synthesis. A study uses scanning tunnelling microscopy to catch gold in the act as it guides the formation of one-dimensional polymers from saturated hydrocarbons.