This Hybrid Polymer Could Act Like a Muscle

Brian Buntz

February 19, 2016

2 Min Read
This Hybrid Polymer Could Act Like a Muscle


Researchers at Northwestern are developing a polymer that has both rigid and soft nanoscale compartments, permitting it to lift objects.


Brian Buntz 


A novel hybrid polymer could potentially be used to deliver drugs, biomolecules, or other chemicals. In addition, it could be used to create materials capable of self-repairing.


 "We have created a surprising new polymer with nano-sized compartments that can be removed and chemically regenerated multiple times," explained materials scientist Samuel I. Stupp in a statement.


Stupp is certainly optimistic about the potential of the materials: "Our discovery could transform the world of polymers and start a third chapter in their history: that of the 'hybrid polymer,'" Stupp said. "This would follow the first chapter of broadly useful covalent polymers, then the more recent emerging class of supramolecular polymers."


While some of the nanoscale compartments, other include supramolecular polymers that can respond to environmental stimuli and then be regenerated. "The supramolecular soft compartments could be animated to generate polymers with the functions we see in living things," Stupp said.


The two polymers used in the material are formed with either strong covalent bonds or weak non-covalent bonds, the latter which are also termed "supramolecular polymers." 

What is noteworthy about the breakthrough is that it enables scientists to fine tune both the chemistry of polymers as well as how the molecules attract with the material. 

Potential medical applications of the polymers include a "super-smart" patch for drug delivery that can be loaded with a variety of medicines.


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