A toolbox of oligopeptide-modified polymers for tailored elastomers
Biomaterials are constructed from limited sets of building blocks but exhibit extraordinary and versatile properties, because hierarchical structure formation lets them employ identical supramolecular motifs for different purposes. Here we exert a similar degree of structural control in synthetic supramolecular elastomers and thus tailor them for a broad range of thermomechanical properties. We show that oligopeptide-terminated polymers selectively self-assemble into small aggregates or nanofibrils, depending on the length of the oligopeptides. This process is self-sorting if differently long oligopeptides are combined so that different nanostructures coexist in bulk mixtures. Blends of polymers with oligopeptides matching in length furnish reinforced elastomers that exhibit shear moduli one order of magnitude higher than the parent polymers. By contrast, novel interpenetrating supramolecular networks that display excellent vibration damping properties are obtained from blends comprising non-matching oligopeptides or unmodified polymers. Hence, blends of oligopeptide-modified polymers constitute a toolbox for tailored elastomers with versatile properties.