CORDIS - EU research results

Reversible Heterolytic Mechanophores for Dynamic Bulk Materials

Project description

Investigating the dynamic behaviour of smart polymer materials using mechanochemical methods

Smart polymers, also known as stimuli-responsive polymers, are high-performance materials that change in response to their environment. It takes a small variation in temperature, light or other parameter to induce a large change in the behaviour of such materials. The EU-funded ReHuse project will focus on inducing a change in the behaviour of smart polymers using mechanical strength, which has been hitherto neglected. Project work will be geared towards inducing changes in the properties of bulk materials isothermally and reversibly by applying mechanical forces. Researchers aim to mechanochemically activate covalent bonds in bulk polymers by applying reversible heterolytic mechanophores – molecular platforms that dynamically generate and recombine two oppositely charged (macro)molecular fragments upon mechanical stimulation.


Stimuli-responsive polymers adapt their properties in response to external cues. Engineering such “smart” behaviour in artificial systems by molecular design is an exciting fundamental challenge that can lead to technological breakthroughs. Most stimuli-responsive polymers rely on heat and light to trigger changes in materials properties in a predictable fashion. However, limitations intrinsic to these stimuli highlight the necessity of alternative strategies. Naturally evolved systems widely exploit mechanical stimulation to regulate their functions, but recreating such concept in artificial materials has proven extremely challenging thus far.

ReHuse proposes a radically new approach that focuses on the application of mechanical force to induce changes in bulk materials properties isothermally and reversibly. The research project aims at pushing the frontiers of covalent mechanochemistry through the development of reversible heterolytic mechanophores –molecular platforms that dynamically generate and recombine two oppositely charged (macro)molecular fragments upon mechanical stimulation. These new motifs will enable dynamic chemistries involving organic ionic species in solid-state systems in two different types of advanced bulk materials. Combining reversible mechanochemistry and dynamic covalent chemistry will lead to dynamic covalent polymers displaying selective mechanoresponsiveness. This concept will be leveraged to create recyclable materials. The reversible generation of charges from the heterolytic scission will enable to modulate hydrophilicity/hydrophobicity dynamically. Such principles will be explored to set the groundwork for mechano-responsive atmospheric water harvesters. This interdisciplinary research project will advance our understanding of mechanochemistry and, more importantly, will usher new avenues for its productive and repeatable use in adaptive materials.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 498 401,00
43007 Tarragona

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Este Cataluña Tarragona
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
€ 1 498 401,00

Beneficiaries (1)