The principle idea behind Molecularly Imprinted Polymer (MIP) synthesis is the generation of solution state complexes between the template ligand in hand and appropriate functional monomers, followed by subsequent “freezing” of these complexes by co-polymerisation of the above with an excess of a cross-linking monomer. These monomer – template complexes are stabilised by non-covalent interactions, reversible covalent interactions or metal ion mediated interactions. The types of interactions that are usually exploited in molecular imprinting are: a) hydrogen bonds, b) π-π interactions, c) ionic forces, d) hydrophobic interactions, e) van der Waals forces, f) metal-ligand bonds, g) cleavable covalent bonds.
The non-covalent or “self-assembly” approach is the most widely applied mode in molecular imprinting. The template is mixed with monomers and cross-linkers in an appropriate solvent. In this pre-polymerisation mixture, complexes of the template with the monomers are formed as a result of polar interactions such as hydrogen bonds, ionic interactions, Van der Waals forces etc. The strength of these interactions and the resulting complexes is of vital importance for the templating effect in the final polymer.
Our wider research interests include the development and application of Molecularly Imprinted Polymers targeting compounds of environmental, pharmaceutical and biological interest, using custom synthesised functional monomers. Such monomers exhibit superior complementarity to the compounds of interest, enabling us to access materials able to achieve selective compound extraction from competitive media and complicated samples.