In this project funded by the Macromolecular, Supramolecular and Nanochemistry Program of the Chemistry Division, Ken D. Shimizu of the University of South Carolina will develop rewritable molecularly imprinted polymers. The approach is to synthesize polymer networks with conformationally restricted functional groups capable of non-covalent interactions. The networks would be thermally annealed in the presence of a guest, and then the guest would be removed to produce the imprinted network. The "memory" of the network would be erased by heating it at a temperature that enables fast rotation about the restricted bonds. The broader impacts involve training undergraduate and graduate students, continuing a high school chemical demonstration program run by graduate students in the chemistry department, providing high school students a summer research opportunity in the laboratory, and the potential scientific and technological impact of programmable polymers.
The research will further our understanding of how an "imprint" of a molecule can be rendered chemically within a material and how that imprint can later "recognize" the molecule selectively. This work could lead to improved methods to remove impurities from pharmaceuticals or environmental contaminants from water and to improved chemical sensors that would provide faster and more accurate results.