It has been known for decades that breaking high molecular weight polymeric materials often involves the scission of carbon-carbon bonds. To an organic chemist, this reaction outcome is pretty remarkable, and it underscores the fact that the macroscopic forces typical of daily life are many orders of magnitude greater than the interatomic forces that hold molecules together. Our group is intrigued by the seductive idea that macroscopic forces can be harnessed and used to perform productive, rather than destructive, chemistry.
To that end, we seek to understand the following hierarchy: How can material architectures be created so that they channel macroscopic forces to the right molecules? What molecular architectures will then channel forces to the desired atoms and bonds? And, finally, how do mechanical forces couple onto various reaction mechanisms? We hope to understand and exploit these concepts not only in organic and organometallic reaction chemistry, but also as a strategy for the creation of self-healing polymer composites.