Polymer, a principal raw material for plastics, is synthesized by connecting small molecules (monomers) like a chain. Polymer is now indispensable for our society, because it can satisfy various demands of our daily lives by optimizing kinds of monomers and a number of monomers connected for polymers. However, in order to precisely control polymer syntheses, it requires well-equipped facilities as well as advanced expertise. In the late 1980s, a new type of polymer, called as “supramolecular polymer”, has been developed. Although supramolecular polymers can be easily synthesized without any special facilities, it has been impossible to precisely control their syntheses.
Researchers at the University of Tokyo developed a novel method to precisely control the synthesis of supramolecular polymers with a bowl-shaped molecule, corannulene. The key for this success is to cyclize the connecting parts of monomers, which allowed for an application of the conventional strategy for the precise polymerization to the supramolecular polymer with corannulenes (Figure). This result enables anyone to precisely synthesize the supramolecular polymer, which in turn may simplify manufacturing process of polymers and reduce the cost of it. Furthermore, supramolecular polymers will be completely recyclable –an important property for creating a sustainable society.