Where Biology and Traditional Polymers Meet: The Potential of Associating Sequence-Defined Polymers for Materials Science

Audra J. Destefano, Rachel A. Segalman, Emily C. Davidson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Polymers with precisely defined monomeric sequences present an exquisite tool for controlling material properties by harnessing both the robustness of synthetic polymers and the ability to tailor the inter- and intramolecular interactions so crucial to many biological materials. While polymer scientists traditionally synthesized and studied the physics of long molecules best described by their statistical nature, many biological polymers derive their highly tailored functions from precisely controlled sequences. Therefore, significant effort has been applied toward developing new methods of synthesizing, characterizing, and understanding the physics of non-natural sequence-defined polymers. This perspective considers the synergistic advantages that can be achieved via tailoring both precise sequence control and attributes of traditional polymers in a single system. Here, we focus on the potential of sequence-defined polymers in highly associating systems, with a focus on the unique properties, such as enhanced proton conductivity, that can be attained by incorporating sequence. In particular, we examine these materials as key model systems for studying previously unresolvable questions in polymer physics including the role of chain shape near interfaces and how to tailor compatibilization between dissimilar polymer blocks. Finally, we discuss the critical challenges-in particular, truly scalable synthetic approaches, characterization and modeling tools, and robust control and understanding of assembly pathways-that must be overcome for sequence-defined polymers to attain their potential and achieve ubiquity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1556-1571
Number of pages16
JournalJACS Au
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 25 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


  • copolymer
  • dispersity
  • morphology
  • patterning
  • polypeptoid
  • self-assembly
  • sequence-defined polymer


Dive into the research topics of 'Where Biology and Traditional Polymers Meet: The Potential of Associating Sequence-Defined Polymers for Materials Science'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this