Interface Engineering using Metal-Phenolic Networks (MPNs)

Polyphenolic molecules such as tannic acid show universal adherent properties. By adding metal ions as cross-linkers, metal-phenolic network (MPN) films are assembled in a surface-confined manner. The physicochemical properties of MPN-based materials depend on the polyphenolic molecules and metal ions used. MPNs are now regarded as a versatile coating platform and widely used all over the world to engineer nanomaterials and biointerfaces.
[1] Science, 2013, 341, 154–157.
[2] Nano Today, 2017, 12, 136–148.
[3] Algal Research, 2022, 61, 102569.
[4] Sci. Rep., 2022, 12, 2071.

Polyphenol-Inspired Molecular Design of Functional Polymers

Polyphenols are naturally occurring plant-derived chemicals. Natural polyphenols are thought to play important roles in the protection of plants from microbial infections and UV irradiation. We synthesize polyphenol-inspired polymers with phenolic and thiophenolic pendant groups, and evaluate their solubility, adsorption, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.
[1] ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng., 2016, 4, 3857–3863.
[2] Polym. Chem., 2020, 11, 249–253.
[3] J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2022, 144, 2450–2454.

Bioinspired Composites and Adhesives

Tunicate is a marine invertebrate having a stiff yet flexible outer covering called tunic. The tunic is a cellulose fiber reinforced protein composite that contains a post‐translationally modified amino acid, 3,4,5‐trihydroxyphenylalanine (TOPA) with a gallol functionality. We are trying to mimic the toughening strategy of tunicate by adopting the unique gallol-based interfacial adhesion design.
Putting a Band-Aid on wet skin is a challenging task because a thin water layer prevents the adhesion. Some marine creatures can produce biological molecules which are remarkably sticky even to wet surfaces. This inspired us to synthesize novel underwater adhesives, which we aim to apply for tissue repair, wound dressing and biomedical devices.
[1] Biomacromolecules, 2017, 18, 2959–2966.
[2] J. Photopolym. Sci. Technol., 2020, 33, 123–127.
[3] J. Mater. Chem. B, 2020, 8, 6798–6801.
[4] Nature Commun., 2022, 13, 1892.

Nanoparticle Engineering for Therapeutic and Diagnostic Applications

Targeted drug delivery enables site-specific drug release and thus reduce toxic side effects. Bioderived nanoparticles-based liquid biopsy detects signatures of diseases at early stages. In this project, interaction between nanoparticles and biointerfaces is investigated using biological particles (e.g., viruses and extracellular vesicles) and artificial particles (e.g., polymer capsules and polyphenol particles) as model systems.
[1] Adv. Science, 2019, 1801688.
[2] Chem. Mater., 2019, 31, 2191–2201.
[3] ChemNanoMat, 2021, 7, 592–595.

Bioinspired Self-Healing Polymers in Wet Environments

Polymers are widely used in marine environments due to their lightweight nature, good processability, and unique thermal/mechanical properties. Crack formation and other types of damage in polymeric materials used in wet environments could eventually lead to wholescale failure and/or the spread of microplastic pieces into marine environments. Imparting self-healing capabilities to those polymers would be a beneficial strategy for extending the life time and reducing the maintenance cost. We are designing and synthesizing self-healing polymers that can self-heal in seawater through dynamic bondings such as hydrogen bondings and coordination interactions. A judicious design principle at multiple length scales is needed, as most of the existing self-healing polymers suffer from swelling-induced mechanical instability and loss of self-healing ability because of a severe water uptake in fully submerged conditions.
[1] ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, 2016, 8, 19047–19053.
[2] RSC Adv., 2017, 7, 19288–19295.
[3] J. Mater. Chem. A, 2018, 6, 19643–19652.