Northwestern researchers discover new materials to benefit energy, medicine

Paulina Firozi

Researchers at Northwestern’s Stupp Labratory are discovering previously unknown uses for materials within the realm of functional supramolecular polymers for the purpose of advancement in energy technologies and regenerative medicine, according to a University press release.

An article reviewing some advances in the past 10 years was published in the Feb. 16 issue of Science.

“This field shows great promise for designing new materials, including highly sustainable forms of materials and highly bioactive materials for medicine, renewable energy and sustainability,” said NU prof. Samuel I. Stupp, a corresponding author of the article, in the University release. Takuzo Aida of the University of Tokyo and E.W. Meijer of Eindhoven University of Technology were the other two authors.

Some of Stupp’s recent research includes the discovery of an injectable gel used to grow new cartilage, a nanostructure that is used for new blood vessel growth and a gel “string” of supramolecular polymers, used to repair heart and brain tissue, according to the University release.

“Over the past decade my lab has demonstrated some of the most bioactive materials that have ever been reported by making supermolecular polymers and giving them structures that can signal cells,” Stupp said in the release. “They have produced very highly bioactive materials for regenerative medicine.”

Supramolecular polymers differ from polymers used in current technologies in that they are connected by weaker, non-covalent bonds, as opposed to macromolecules which consist of small units of covalent bonds, according to the release. The weak bond of supramolecular polymers are more flexible and can be created into different combinations.

The authors said further use of new materials created from supramolecular polymers can give rise to the discovery of materials for use in the fields of sustainability, health and technology.

Paulina Firozi