From destructive to constructive – Using energy to strengthen polymeric materials
In this talk, I will present my plans to design polymers with new capabilities – ones that improve their performance as a response to distinct energy inputs. I will discuss my proposals to develop: 1) polymers that can undergo autonomous strengthening when they experience mechanical force; and 2) polymerization methods that are self-catalyzed and require less energy to perform without sacrificing the material strength of resulting polymer. The former will be achieved by designing synthetic polymers containing mechanoresponsive functional groups that can rearrange to generate strong bases under mechanical actuations. The base in turn will trigger the formation of new polymer chains leading to strengthening of the overall polymeric material. The later project aims at designing new class of phthalonitrile based polymeric resins that undergo self-catalyzed crosslinking or curing. The first generation of these phthalonitrile monomers will contain masked phenolic curing promoters that can be unmasked under mild heating in the presence of suitable additives and then trigger a self-catalyzed polymer curing process.