This critical review presents and discusses the recent advances in complex hybrid materials that result from the combination of polymers and mesoporous matrices. Ordered mesoporous materials derived from supramolecular templating present high surface area and tailored pore sizes; pore surfaces can be further modified by organic, organometallic or even biologically active functional groups. This permits the creation of hybrid systems with distinct physical properties or chemical functions located in the framework walls, the pore surface, and the pore interior. Bringing polymeric building blocks into the game opens a new dimension: the possibility to create phase separated regions (functional domains) within the pores that can behave as “reactive pockets” of nanoscale size, with highly controlled chemistry and interactions within restricted volumes. The possibilities of combining “hard” and “soft” building blocks to yield these novel nanocomposite materials with tuneable functional domains ordered in space are potentially infinite. New properties are bound to arise from the synergy of both kinds of components, and their spatial location. The main object of this review is to report on new approaches towards functional polymer–inorganic mesostructured hybrids, as well as to discuss the present challenges in this flourishing research field. Indeed, the powerful concepts resulting from the synergy of sol–gel processing, supramolecular templating and polymer chemistry open new opportunities in the design of advanced functional materials: the tailored production of complex matter displaying spatially-addressed chemistry based on the control of chemical topology. Breakthrough applications are expected in the fields of sustainable energy, environment sensing and remediation, biomaterials, pharmaceutical industry and catalysis, among others (221 references).
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