Stimuli-responsive Molecularly Imprinted Polymers
Molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) are synthetic materials able to selectively rebind a target molecule in preference to other closely related compounds. Molecular imprinting technology involves the synthesis of MIPs in the presence of a template with the aim of introducing complementary and selective binding sites into the polymeric matrix. This synthetic approach allows us to obtain stable polymeric materials characterized by significant molecular recognition abilities, as well as low cost and easy preparation, and, at the same time, resistance to a wide range of conditions such as pH, organic solvents, temperature and pressure. Currently, MIPs are attracting considerable research interest due to their potential applications in several fields including separation sciences, solid-phase extraction (SPE), biotechnology, catalysis, chemo/biosensors and drug delivery. Stimuli-responsive polymers can be defined as intelligent materials able to respond to specific environmental stimuli, such as the presence of another molecule, pH, temperature, magnetic field and irradiation, with consequent changes in their properties. Stimuli-responsive MIPs combine the selective recognition properties for a template molecule with the ability to respond to external stimuli. Therefore, this chapter aims at an overview of molecular imprinting technology, the design of MIPs and the synthetic approaches with particular attention devoted to the field of stimuli-responsive MIPs.