Precise modulation of molecular weight distribution for structural engineering†
As one of the most critical molecular parameters, molecular weight distribution has a profound impact on the structure and properties of polymers. Quantitative and comprehensive understanding, however, has yet to be established, mainly due to the challenge in the precise control and regulation of molecular weight distribution. In this work, we demonstrated a robust and effective approach to artificially engineer the molecular weight distribution through precise recombination of discrete macromolecules. The width, symmetry, and other characteristics of the distribution can be independently manipulated to achieve absolute control, serving as a model platform for highlighting the importance of chain length heterogeneity in structural engineering. Different from their discrete counterparts, each individual component in dispersed samples experiences a varied degree of supercooling at a specific crystallization temperature. Non-uniform crystal nucleation and growth kinetics lead to distinct molecular arrangements. This work could bridge the gap between discrete and dispersed macromolecules, providing fundamental perspectives on the critical role of molecular weight distribution.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2019 Chemical Science HOT Article Collection