Reversible deactivation radical polymerization
Our research group has been involved in the preparation of well-defined polymeric materials through Reversible Deactivation Radical Polymerization (RDRP) methods, mainly using atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP), degenerative chain transfer (DCT) polymerization and reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization techniques.
The development and optimization of new RDRP systems, either in homogeneous or heterogeneous media, that can operate under eco-friendly conditions is one of our main goals in this area, aiming the future scale-up of these techniques. In addition, our group is devoted to the preparation of tailor-made (co)polymeric structures for different applications, such as antimicrobial materials, gene/drug delivery, advanced coatings and conducting materials, among others. Our polymer portfolio is vast and includes both hydrophilic and hydrophobic materials from several families, namely poly(meth)acrylates, polystyrene, polyacrylamides, poly(vinyl chloride), stimuli-responsive polymers and functional polymers.
RDRP techniques enable the preparation of polymers with narrow molecular weight distribution and active chain-ends that can be easily functionalized to allow macromolecular engineering. The preparation of block copolymers with precise control over the molecular structure at a nanometric level is a key feature of RDRP, allowing the creation of self-assembled structures in selective solvents with potential use in high-value applications.
Biopolymers (synthetic and natural) for different applications
Our research group has been involved in different projects aiming the replacement of non-biodegradable materials by their biodegradable and biobased counterparts. In order to turn this challenging objective into reality it is necessary to improve significantly the mechanical and thermal properties of the biodegradable materials. In our research group, we are moving towards the synthesis of new biodegradable polymers, namely polyesters, with mechanical properties that fulfill the requisites of the plastics industry.
In pharmaceutics/medicine, biodegradable polymers (both natural and synthetic) proved to be very useful in drug delivery systems and tissue engineering. In this field, our group is interested in the synthesis of polyesters and poly(ester amide)s based on a-amino acids and a-hydroxy acids. Unsaturated biodegradable polyesters for application in scaffolds have also been successfully synthesized.
Organic synthesis and controlled modification of polymers
The organic chemistry research area supports the polymerization studies by intervening at several levels. Several monomers have been purposely synthesized or modified to adjust the functionality and side groups of the resultant polymers. Different catalysts have been prepared to improve the polymerization reaction features.
Also, tailor-made ATRP initiators or RAFT agents have been designed and synthesized to introduce specific functionalities at the chain-ends of tailor-made polymers. Another strategy involves the post-modification of polymers using methods that are feasible at the industrial scale. The modification of polymers (pre or post-polymerization) is a very valuable strategy for the design of tailor-made materials for desired applications.
The complete characterization of polymers is crucial to understand their properties. Our research group has been working the physical/chemical characterization of polymers. Particular interest is devoted to dynamic mechanical thermal analysis and size exclusion chromatography.