From edible electronics to stem cell growth, soft robots to self-healing networks, polymer scientists at the 2013 fall MRS meeting in Boston brought another year of materials science research to a close with a bang.
Using theory and molecular simulations, Arthi Jayaraman (University of Colorado Boulder) explained how polydispersity of polymer-grafted nanoparticles can be a design parameter to control macroscopic properties of a polymer nanocomposite (http://bit.ly/1i8kfUD). Computational models were again proven powerful as Vladimir Tsukruk (Georgia Tech) examined the properties of layer-by-layer polymeric constructs, predicting their responsive behavior.
The past decade has seen exciting growth in the use of polymers as scaffolds for stem cell differentiation. Cato Laurencin (University of Connecticut) described composite and multi-scale systems currently being used to repair and regenerate hard tissues such as bone and soft tissues such as ligament and tendon (http://bit.ly/1dGHSAu). Rafael Verduzco (Rice University) explained how liquid crystal elastomers are effective substrates for cell sheet growth and alignment via small electrical cues.
Microgels have also been used to differentially modulate the properties of biomaterials surfaces to control their interactions with tissue cells. Matt Libera (Stevens Institute of Technology), using PEG-based microgels, created surface patterns to control the spatial distribution of proteins (http://bit.ly/1dU3OJX). Multi-sensitive microgels, by virtue of their complex morphologies, can be used as responsive templates to form polyelectrolyte multilayers, as demonstrated by Walter Ricthering (RWTH Aachen University).
Compliant, biocompatible materials are essential for the integration of electronics with biological interfaces. Fiorenzo Omenetto (Tufts University) presented fascinating progress on the use of silk fibroin as the material base for nanostructured optical materials and thin-film electronics (http://bit.ly/1crCW4K). Siegfried Bauer (Johannes Kepler University) detailed the latest frontier of research in macroelectronics, including ultrastretchable dry gel cell batteries, electronic polymer foils that can withstand crumpling, and soft robotic systems.
As the 2014 conference season begins, keep an eye on the Journal of Polymer Science: Polymer Physics in 2014 for exciting progress and the latest research from these polymer scientists and more!