Vol. 32 No. 3
Frontiers in Polymer Science
by Stanislaw Penczek
The international symposium Frontiers in Polymer Science was held in Congress Centrum Mainz, Germany, from 7–9 June 2009. Organized by Elsevier and sponsored by IUPAC, the symposium celebrated the 50th anniversary of the journal Polymer. The symposium attracted 679 participants, including 229 students, from as many as 60 countries.
The opening session began with an address by Rumen Duhlev of Elsevier, Oxford, UK, who discussed the history of Polymer and its current. He was followed by IUPAC Bureau Member Stanislaw Penczek, who presented recent IUPAC initiatives and described plans for the International Year of Chemistry and the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to Maria Sklodowska Curie.
Mainz was a fitting location for a meeting on polymer science since it has a vast history of research in this field. The Institute of Organic Chemistry of Mainz University was chaired for a long time by Werner Kern, former collaborator with the Nobel Prize winner Hermann Staudinger, who was the first to show that macromolecules/polymers are indeed long chains linked by covalent bonds. Two more prominent scientists worked there as well, Rolf Schulz and Helmut Ringsdorf, who was the first to describe the requirements for the complex bioactive macromolecules—polymeric drugs.
The scientific program of the symposium was organized in such a way that there were only plenary lectures and posters. Thus, there were 15 plenary Lectures and 550 posters. Two plenary lectures, fascinating as always, were given by the Nobel Prize winners Jean-Marie Lehn from France and Alan Heeger from the USA. J.-M. Lehn is further developing the field of supramolecular chemistry he originated more than 20 years ago. He described the formation of dynamers (supramolecular long chain entities) and their possible applications. He showed that two (or more) dynamers in direct contact could exchange large fragments forming noncovalently joined equivalents of block copolymers.
In his lucid presentation, Alan Heeger analyzed the present state of electrically conducting polymers and showed step by step the conditions necessary to be fulfilled in order to construct efficient solar batteries. It is a widely held belief that the only means of solving the demand for world energy needs is through solar energy. Closely related was the lecture by Sir Richard Friend (Cambridge, UK), who developed polymer semiconductors and showed that such devices like light-emitting diodes and transistors can be constructed.
Progress in polymer syntheses in novel areas was presented by Klaus Müllen (stressing the importance of graphene) and Krzysztof Matyjaszewski (USA/Poland), inventor of the most popular method of controlled radical polymerization—ATRP (sometimes incorrectly referred to as “living” polymerization), who showed numerous applications of polymers prepared by ATRP (atom transfer radical polymerization). These applications would not have been possible by any of the earlier known methods of polymer syntheses. Jean Fréchet (USA), inventor of one of the two known methods of dendrimer syntheses, is focusing on applications in such fields as catalysis and medicine, possible for the first time due to the dendritic structure of macromolecules.
Clément Sanchez (France) focused his presentation on hybrid inorganic-organic materials. Markus Antonietti (Germany) gave an inspiring lecture on carbonization of organic matter. The lecture by David Tirrell (USA) showed fascinating possibilities at the borderline of molecular biology and polymer chemistry: how by manipulating the genetic material it has been possible to tailor-make polypeptides having desired structures, including polypeptides composed of unnatural aminoacid. The first practical success is in ophthalmology, apparently paving the way for construction of “spare” human body parts in this unusual way. The rest of the lectures, no less interesting and important, were closer to polymer physics.
In his address, Rumen Duhlev emphasized the truly international nature of the journal (papers originate from 74 countries while scientists from 100 countries of the world have online access to the journal). He presented data on the citation performance of papers in Polymer and stressed that in areas like nanoscience and nanotechnology, conducting polymers, interfaces, membranes, morphology, and electrospinning, Polymer attracts the most highly cited papers, on average, than any other competing broad polymer journal.
The symposium was chaired by four prominent scientists: Stephen Z.D. Cheng (University of Akron, USA), Takeji Hashimoto (Japan Atomic Energy Research Agency, Japan), Georg Krausch (Johannes Gutenberg–Universität Mainz, Germany), and Axel H.E. Müller (Universität Bayreuth, Germany).
The next meeting in the series will be held 29–31 May 2011 in Lyon, France.
Note: Rumen Duhlev helped prepare this report.
Stanislaw Penczek <email@example.com> is a professor at the Centre of Molecular and Macromolecular Studies in Lodz, Poland.
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