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Functional soft materials from metallopolymers and metallosupramolecular polymers



Synthetic polymers containing metal centres are emerging as an interesting and broad class of easily processable materials with properties and functions that complement those of state-of-the-art organic macromolecular materials. A diverse range of different metal centres can be harnessed to tune macromolecular properties, from transition- and main-group metals to lanthanides. Moreover, the linkages that bind the metal centres can vary almost continuously from strong, essentially covalent bonds that lead to irreversible or 'static' binding of the metal to weak and labile, non-covalent coordination interactions that allow for reversible, 'dynamic' or 'metallosupramolecular', binding. Here we review recent advances and challenges in the field and illustrate developments towards applications as emissive and photovoltaic materials; as optical limiters; in nanoelectronics, information storage, nanopatterning and sensing; as macromolecular catalysts and artificial enzymes; and as stimuli-responsive materials. We focus on materials in which the metal centres provide function; although they can also play a structural role, systems where this is solely their purpose have not been discussed.

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Figure 1: Electro- and photoluminescent materials.
Figure 2: Supramolecular dichroic assemblies and optically responsive materials.
Figure 3: Materials with electronic and magnetic interactions.
Figure 4: Nanoscale templating and single-molecule motors.
Figure 5: Sensory materials.
Figure 6: Stimuli-responsive gels.
Figure 7: Linkers for the construction of metallosupramolecular networks.
Figure 8: Artificial metalloenzymes for catalysis.


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Correspondence to Ulrich S. Schubert or Ian Manners.

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Competing interests

Ian Manners is associated with Opalux Inc. as a scientific advisor. He is a coinventor of the technology illustrated in Figure 6b and c, which Opalux are developing.

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Whittell, G., Hager, M., Schubert, U. et al. Functional soft materials from metallopolymers and metallosupramolecular polymers. Nature Mater 10, 176–188 (2011).

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