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Anne McNeil

Anne McNeil
Program
Beckman Young Investigators

Award Year
2009

Institution
University of Michigan

Email:
ajmcneil@umich.edu

Website:
http://www.umich.edu/~michchem/faculty/mcneil/index.html

Research Title:
New Strategies For Stimuli-Responsive Materials

Abstract:
Molecular gels have been studied for over 160 years and are now used in diverse applications such as regenerative medicine, drug-delivery, biosensing, and environmental remediation. Despite their utility, many applications rely on a narrow set of gelator structures because there is no adequate model to guide their invention. The challenge in designing new gelators is that many factors can influence their self-assembly, such as pH, ionic strength, temperature, solvent identity, concentration, and molecular structure. Our proposal addresses this challenge by developing a new strategy to design molecules for stimuli-induced gelations. The central theme is that the stimulus promotes self-assembly by enhancing the attractive intermolecular interactions (in contrast to the traditional focus on stimuli-induced changes in solubility). In our preliminary results we descrive the first successful de novo design where gel formation is triggered by an oxidation-induced planarization and aided by donor-acceptor interactions. We demonstrate that this stimuli-responsive material can be used to sense nitric oxide, an important biomarker for pulmonary inflammation. Our future research goals are three-fold: (1) Test the generality of this strategy by designing new stimuli-responsive molecules for other stimuli. (2) Develop methods for signal amplification using functionalized polymers. (3) Evaluate techniques for remote monitoring of gelation using acoustic wave-based measurements. Given the diverse applications that already utilize molecular gels, the results of these studies should have a broad impact across several disciplines. including medicine, engineering, and materials science.

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