Photochemical Sciences Ph.D. Dissertations


Functional Materials and Chemistry Education: Biomimetic Metallopolymers, Photoresponsive Gels and Infrared Cameras

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Photochemical Sciences

First Advisor

Alexis Ostrowski (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Joseph Furgal (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Pavel Anzenbacher (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Colleen Fitzgerald (Other)


Functional and stimuli responsive materials are becoming more and more important as technology continues to develop. Many of these materials are based on polymers that contain specific functional moieties that give the bulk material the desired properties. An emerging class of materials known as metallopolymers have been shown to be useful in this area. Metallopolymers are comprised of a polymer backbone that has been modified with a metal binding moiety and coordinated to a metal ion. In some cases these metal ions act as a cross linking agent to form a supramolecular material. Our group has focused on strategically choosing the metal complex to achieve specific functionalities. Traditionally we have focused on creating photoresponsive materials and used this as a way to change the mechanical properties of the material. While we have success in this area this is just the surface of the capabilities of these metallopolymer materials. The projects detailed in this dissertation focus on trying to create biomimetic materials and new photoresponsive materials from these coordination materials. The biomimetic catalysis project studied mimics of the catechol oxidase enzyme and focused on comparing a metallopolymer analog and a small model complex. The two catalysts exhibited differences in reactivity and the factors leading to this were studied through a variety of methods. The photoresponsive materials were focused on leucoindigo containing poly(vinyl alcohol) hydrogels that exhibited photoresponsiveness. The project revealed that the photochemistry of leucoindigo was affected by the polymer and by the inclusion of various metal ions. The third and final project described in this work focusses on using newly affordable technology for chemical education purposes. Infrared thermography is becoming more accessible with the development of smartphone compatible devices. Chemistry students have long struggled with basic chemistry concepts that are key to learning more advanced processes. These new IR cameras give students the ability to visualize otherwise invisible evidence of chemical processes. While this is accurate there is not a lot of curriculum that has been developed to take advantage of this technology. The final chapter details our explorations into developing general chemistry laboratory modules.