The activation efficiency of mechanophores can be modulated by adjacent polymer composition†
The activation efficiency of mechanophores in stress-responsive polymers is generally limited by the competing process of unspecific scission in other parts of the polymer chain. Here it is shown that the linker between the mechanophore and the polymer backbone determines the force required to activate the mechanophore. Using quantum chemical methods, it is demonstrated that the activation forces of three mechanophores (Dewar benzene, benzocyclobutene and gem-dichlorocyclopropane) can be adjusted over a range of almost 300% by modifying the chemical composition of the linker. The results are discussed in terms of changes in electron density, strain distribution and structural parameters during the rupture process. Using these findings it is straightforward to either significantly enhance or reduce the activation rate of mechanophores in stress-responsive materials, depending on the desired use case. The methodology is applied to switch a one-step “gating” of a mechanochemical transformation to a two-step process.