Complex patterns integral to the structure and function of biological materials arise spontaneously during morphogenesis. In contrast, functional patterns in synthetic materials are typically created through multistep manufacturing processes, limiting accessibility to spatially varying materials systems. Here, we harness rapid reaction-thermal transport during frontal polymerization to drive the emergence of spatially varying patterns during the synthesis of engineering polymers. Tuning of the reaction kinetics and thermal transport enables internal feedback control over thermal gradients to spontaneously pattern morphological, chemical, optical, and mechanical properties of structural materials. We achieve patterned regions with two orders of magnitude change in modulus in poly(cyclooctadiene) and 20 °C change in glass transition temperature in poly(dicyclopentadiene). Our results suggest a facile route to patterned structural materials with complex microstructures without the need for masks, molds, or printers utilized in conventional manufacturing. Moreover, we envision that more sophisticated control of reaction-transport driven fronts may enable spontaneous growth of structures and patterns in synthetic materials, inaccessible by traditional manufacturing approaches.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Chemical Engineering(all)