Eighty years of macromolecular science: from birth to nano-, bio- and self-assembling polymers-with slight emphasis on European contributions

A definition of macromolecular science (as opposed to polymer science and engineering) is given, from which the year 1930 is derived as the year of its birth. The scope of treatment of this paper will be limited to solid technical polymers. Some important discoveries of polymer technology in the nineteenth century are reviewed together with the reason why the concept of macromolecules and the theory of rubber elasticity did not emerge earlier. The role of chain backbones in structure formation and mechanical loading of technical polymers has been heavily discussed ever since and has attracted this author for most of his scientific work. He offers a personal perspective of the most important achievements in three domains of macromolecular science: the synthesis of well-designed chain molecules, structural characterization and the understanding of the micro-mechanics of (nano-structured) polymer materials. Progress is generally documented by citing individual references from the discussed periods-well knowing that the development of science is due to the contributions of many more people. In conclusion, a critical outlook will be attempted on future trends in the design and application of well-adapted-and frequently complex-polymer systems towards growing human needs.


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