MONET Center Wins Prestigious Royal Society of Chemistry Prize

Stephen Craig and Michael Rubinstein
Stephen Craig, William T. Miller Professor of Chemistry, and Michael Rubinstein, Aleksandar S. Vesic Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Physics, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Sciences, and Biomedical Engineering, are two members of the MONET team who have just won the Royal Society of Chemistry's Horizon Prize.

The Center for Molecularly Optimized Networks (MONET) has won the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Horizon Prize.

MONET is a National Sciences Foundation (NSF) Center that fosters collaboration between researchers nationwide. Under the direction of Stephen Craig, William T. Miller Professor of Chemistry, MONET’s goals are to better understand and improve upon the molecular properties of polymers. Michael Rubinstein, Aleksandar S. Vesic Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Physics, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Sciences, and Biomedical Engineering is also a member.

The Horizon Prize celebrates groundbreaking discoveries that push the boundaries of science and open new directions in their field. It was awarded to the MONET team for identifying a new way to make rubbery materials an order of magnitude tougher, without compromising other aspects of their performance

The key, it turns out, is to trigger small chemical reactions within the material while it is in use.  

The team’s work involves molecular components known as mechanophores that can be “turned on” to react only at very precise locations where damage is about to occur. In one example, the rate at which a material tears can be slowed by roughly 100-fold. 

This discovery has potential implications for biomedical implants and even car tires, which shed an estimated 6 million metric tons of dust and debris worldwide.

“That’s just from tire tread wearing down on roads,” Craig said in a previous interview. “If you could reduce that by even 10%, that's still 600,000 tons of microplastics you'd be keeping out of the environment.”

The Royal Society of Chemistry’s Prizes portfolio is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the world. "I'm delighted for our team,” Craig said. “The award is such a nice validation of the power of collaboration and the way everyone in the team is working together to tackle these really challenging scientific questions." 

The team receives a trophy and a video showcasing their work, and each team member receives a certificate.  


CITATION: S. Wang et alFacile mechanochemical cycloreversion of polymer cross-linkers enhances tear resistanceScience. Vol. 380, June 23, 2023, p. 1248. doi: 10.1126/science.adg3229.