Polymers that release functional small molecules in response to mechanical force are appealing targets for drug delivery, sensing, catalysis, and many other applications. Mechanically sensitive molecules called mechanophores are uniquely suited to enable molecular release with excellent selectivity and control, but mechanophore designs capable of releasing cargo with diverse chemical functionality are limited. Here, we describe a general and highly modular mechanophore platform based on masked 2-furylcarbinol derivatives that spontaneously decompose under mild conditions upon liberation via a mechanically triggered reaction, resulting in the release of a covalently installed molecular payload. We identify key structure-property relationships for the reactivity of 2-furylcarbinol derivatives that enable the mechanically triggered release of functionally diverse molecular cargo with release kinetics being tunable over several orders of magnitude. In particular, the incorporation of an electron-donating phenoxy group on the furan ring in combination with an α-methyl substituent dramatically lowers the activation barrier for fragmentation, providing a highly active substrate for molecular release. Moreover, we find that phenoxy substitution enhances the thermal stability of the mechanophore without adversely affecting its mechanochemical reactivity. The generality and efficacy of this molecular design platform are demonstrated using ultrasound-induced mechanical force to trigger the efficient release of a broad scope of cargo molecules, including those bearing alcohol, phenol, alkylamine, arylamine, carboxylic acid, and sulfonic acid functional groups.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Chemical Engineering(all)