Molecularly Imprinted Polymers: Towards a Rational Understanding of Biomimetic Materials
Molinelli, Alexandra Lidia
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The research described in this thesis contributes to the development of new strategies facilitating advanced understanding of the fundamental principles governing selective recognition of molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) at a molecular level for the rational optimization of biomimetic materials. The nature of non-covalent interactions involved in the templating process of molecularly imprinted polymers based on the self-assembly approach were investigated with a variety of analytical techniques addressing molecular level interactions. For this purpose, the concerted application of IR and 1H-NMR spectroscopy enabled studying the complexation of the template molecules 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, quercetin, and o-, m-, and p-nitrophenol with a variety of functional monomers in the pre-polymerization solution by systematically varying the ratio of the involved components. In aqueous and non protic porogenic solvents, information on the interaction types, thermodynamics, and complex stoichiometry was applied toward predicting the optimum imprinting building blocks and ratios. Molecular dynamics simulations of 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid and its interactions with the functional monomer 4-vinylpyridine in aqueous and aprotic explicit solvent allowed demonstrating the fundamental potential of computer MD simulations for predicting optimized pre-polymerization ratios and the involved interaction types. The obtained results clearly demonstrate that the application of rapid IR/NMR pre-screening methods in combination with molecular modeling strategies is a promising strategy towards optimized imprinting protocols in lieu of the conventionally applied labor intensive and time-consuming trial-and-error approach. Furthermore, HPLC characterization of the produced MIPs compared to control polymers enabled a systematic approach to imprinting based on advanced understanding of the factors governing the formation of high-affinity binding sites during the polymerization. In addition, the importance of the combination of size, shape, and molecular functionalities for the selective recognition properties of MIPs was investigated. MIPs for the mycotoxins deoxynivalenol and zearalenone and for the antioxidant quercetin were applied as separation materials for advanced sample preparation in beverage analysis. The obtained results demonstrated the potential of MIPs for rapid one-step sample clean-up and pre-concentration from beverages such as wine and beer.