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Academician Zhang Xi: Commemorating the 100-year History of Staudinger Polymer
2019-12-24 Source: Polymer Journal
Keywords: polymer science

In 1920, German chemist Hermann Staudinger published "On Polymerization", which believed that rubber, fiber, starch, and protein were macromolecules composed of thousands of carbon atoms like chains. Although it has been found that natural rubber can be made into automobile tires after mixing with sulfur, the reason for its good elasticity is unknown. The publication of this classic by Hermann Staudinger marks the birth of polymer chemistry. So far, polymer chemistry as an independent discipline has gone through a full 100 years of development.

After Hermann Staudinger proposed the covalent bond-based macromolecular chain structure, it was opposed by many people at the time. Some people thought that molecules with a molecular weight above 5000 did not exist at all, and some people thought that the so-called macromolecules were formed based on non-covalent bonds. Colloidal aggregates. However, Hermann Staudinger insisted on his academic viewpoint and continuously developed characterization methods to confirm the existence of the macromolecular chain structure. Interestingly, with the development of supramolecular chemistry, research shows that colloidal aggregates formed based on non-covalent bonds can also have a macromolecular chain structure, forming a new direction for supramolecular polymer chemistry.

Hermann Staudinger was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1953 for his pioneering contributions in macromolecular chemistry, and was the first polymer to win the Nobel Prize. As we celebrate the century of polymer chemistry, we will not forget other scientists who made indelible contributions at the same time. For example, Hermann F. Mark established a research team of more than 50 people at BASF in Germany in 1926 and obtained a batch of polymers Polymerization, polymer processing and application patents; In 1935, the United States DuPont Wallace H. Carothers synthesized polyamide fibers (nylon 66) and so on. Successive efforts of generations of scientists have laid the foundation for polymer science and made materials enter the plastic age.

In fact, Hermann Staudinger's original interest was in botany, and he accepted the advice of his father as a teacher: learn chemistry first, and you can better understand plant problems in the future. In fact, from the beginning of his research on macromolecules, his research objects include synthetic polymers, natural macromolecules, and biological macromolecules. Synthetic polymers are model systems for understanding biopolymers and complex biological systems. Hermann Staudinger's close disciple, and my German mentor Professor Helmut Ringsdorf, once commented: Chemistry is his life, and biology is his dream. He devoted his life to building a bridge between life sciences and materials sciences, a dream he has not fulfilled. This may also be one of the reasons why he insisted on Macromolecule and did not like the Polymer title.

Reviewing the development history of polymers for a century, the research content has developed rapidly in both depth and breadth. In the field of discipline, from the original research of polymer chemistry, it has gradually developed into a discipline system that includes branches of polymer chemistry, polymer physics, and polymer engineering. In academic connotation, it has expanded from the study of macromolecular chain structure to The study of aggregate structure and self-assembly structure has expanded from synthetic polymers to biological macromolecules, from traditional synthesis based on covalent bonds to supramolecular synthesis based on non-covalent bonds, from one-dimensional polymers to two-dimensional In terms of social impact, from the original academic interest in novel compounds, it has developed into the theoretical foundation of the polymer industry today, and has promoted the formation and development of the new polymer industry. Its research results have penetrated In various areas of the national economy, such as medical and health, aerospace, national defense, industrial and agricultural production, and daily life, they constitute an important part of human civilization.

In fact, before the concept of chain-like macromolecules was proposed, Hermann Staudinger had made great achievements in the field of organic chemistry, and the reaction influence named after him continued to this day. Why did he venture into new areas that he was not familiar with? In addition to his spirit of jumping out of boundaries and crossing borders, it is also related to the era of Europe at the time. For example, the lack of raw materials for textile production and the nature of cellulose chemistry have caused widespread debate. There is an urgent need to understand the structure and function of natural rubber Relationship, etc. The urgent need for social development is the driving force for scientific and technological progress, and major breakthroughs in scientific research can open up new fields and form new industries for social development.

At the starting point of the new century, polymer science is still a discipline direction in which we can give full play to our imagination, and there are still many important scientific issues that need to be resolved. For example, how to precisely control the sequence structure of synthetic polymers like DNA; how to design and prepare polymer materials according to functional requirements; how to meet the new requirements of a green and sustainable society; how to realize Hermann Staudinger's dream and use polymers to build up The bridge between life science and materials science; how to create a new paradigm for polymer research, and so on.

纪念斯陶丁格高分子百年专辑前言. 张希. 高分子学报, 2020, 51(1) Excerpts from: Preface to the 100th Anniversary of Stoudinger's Polymer. Zhang Xi. Chinese Journal of Polymers, 2020, 51 (1)

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