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Functional Material Definition with Examples

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Any researchers working on a functional materials programme would probably suggest that the best way to define the term is to say it is either a natural or a synthetic material created to undertake a specific function under certain conditions. Put simply, this means that these materials are very selective in respect of the tasks they perform and the conditions they work under; the way they work is subject to some regulation if certain conditions are altered. A functional material can take different forms. It can be a ceramic, metal, polymer, or organic molecule. During their processing, some modification is possible to the material properties by tweaking the conditions by which the processing occurs. For example, changing the processing (optical frequency) conditions of the concerned metal from KHz to THz, would result in an alteration to the properties in electromagnetic applications. These particular applications are used for harvesting solar and storing energy made from magnetic and other electro materials. Often, functional magnetocaloric materials are used to good effect in the form of piezoelectric material, magnetism, the storage of energy and electricity created from ferromagnetic materials.

To continue with our functional material definition, take Zinc Oxide (or ZnO) as an example. This is used to make low-cost but highly efficient, films in a process known as “doping,” which is applied to Zinc Oxide’s non-metallic properties. Co-doping is used to maximize both the electrical and optical properties of ZnO to bring about the high-performance thin film materials. The use of ZnO as electrodes along with organic light-emitting diodes and photovoltaic cells makes performance much more efficient than in devices that use electrodes derived from Indium tin oxide. Additional examples of the application of functional materials are membranes containing NH2-MIL-53(AL) in a framework composed of metal-organic set in polyimide. These are used to remove carbon dioxide from natural gases or from the blends of gases in biogas systems. When the crystals of the metal-organic framework are embedded in a membrane’s matrix, the working conditions are changed to optimize the separation of gasses. 

Hydrogel - Examples and Applications

Whether your essay is about pulmonary embolism vs pneumonia or functional materials, hydrogels are of interest. A hydrogel is a colloidal substance or gel that is insoluble in water and uses water to disperse particles. This polymeric gel comes in several different types, which can be classed as a) permanent-chemical or b) reversible-physical. In the permanent-chemical variety, the hydrogen-based bonds are replaced by more stable and robust ones. High stability is achieved when the gels are placed in very low temperatures or other severe conditions. Furthermore, the gel continues to take in water until an equilibrium state of swelling is reached. The equilibrium point depends on a) the interaction between the gel and water and b) how dense the cross-linking in the gel (or polymer) is.  

In an essay on the definition of functional materials, it should be mentioned that the cross links in the polymer of the reversible-physical variety gel are weak and are negatively affected by pH and temperature changes. Their hydrogen bonds are non-covalent, e.g., they are of the electrostatic interaction variety, a factor that leaves them weak and makes it easy for them to reverse from one particular state to  a different state.

Let us say you are focusing more on functional material and hydrogel usage than pulmonary embolism pneumonia, then there are a number of applications for this gel, varying from the engineering of tissue (e.g. for breast implementation) to sanitary towel manufacturing.  

Examples and Applications of Conductive Polymers  

Regarding the application areas of functional materials, there are many uses for conductive polymers due to their organic nature. For instance, they are widely used in electronic-type applications. This type of polymer is known also as synthetic metal and, with high levels of electrical ability or conductivity, it can fall into the categories of a) conductor metal or b) semiconductor metal. It is possible to modify the electrical capability for improved performance, particularly in terms of ability to disperse. Polyaniline, polypyrrole, polythiophene, and derivatives of these are all examples of a conductive polymer. 

Applications or Uses

In an essay on pneumonia pulmonary embolism or functional materials, it is worth noting that the low processing ability of a conductive polymer means they do not have very many large-scale applications. Possibly, they could be useful in making batteries and for electronic display purposes in the commercial sector, but the high cost of manufacturing them means they are infrequently used. The prohibitive costs results from the slow processing involved e.g. from solubility, melting and their toxic effects. However, their properties have potential which could be used in a number of fields. For example, they could be used as materials for energy (e.g., sources of power), for making synthetic muscles, for combatting static, as ion exchangers and in microelectronics.

If or when methods to improve or speed up their processing capacity are found, there will be more applications for conductive polymers and similar classes of materials. For example, there are now more stable and cheaper-to-manufacture versions of polyaniline and PEDOT available. In particular, the modified and more stable form of PEDOT now has many antistatic uses.

Examples and Applications for MIPs

The processing method for MIPs (Molecularly Imprinted Polymers) involves molecular imprinting, which is a process that uses a template-type molecule for monomer polymerizing. This process produces a polymer that is very like the molecule it originated from. There are several applications for this polymer. These include catalysis, chemical separation and molecular-based sensors.

In terms of writing a functional materials and/or PE and pneumonia essay, the best way to view the molecular imprinting process is to say it is one that creates artificial molecule locks that act as small keys. The resulting polymers behave like biological-type receptors in terms of their chemicals specificity. However, their use is not limited to acting on proteins; other compounds can be used in the frameworks of the polymers.  Compounds can be modified in the molecular imprinting process, allowing properties such as flexibility and stability to be altered. 

There are many applications for polymers and other classes of materials that have undergone molecular imprinting. These, however, have not been very well exploited in a commercial sense and are not yet on the market. However, makers of beta-blockers, beta-agonists, Amphetamine-type drugs and pesticides are known to be interested in this technique because it is effective and efficient. Therefore, it would be useful in various fields, particularly where there is a requirement for sensors or separation. It would be useful, for instance, for developing drugs, preparing man-made antibodies, in chromatography and for analyzing antimicrobial activity in various substances.     

Self-Healing Materials - Definition, Examples and Applications

In an essay on pneumonia or pulmonary embolism or functional materials, self-healing materials are worthy of mention. Materials of the self-healing variety are materials that are structurally capable of recovering from mechanical impairment as a result of over-use. Such impairments usually begin from small tears or cracks that affect thermal, electrical or acoustical properties of materials and hinder performance.   

The way polymers self-heal is akin to a wound healing. It starts by activating the healing response after damage. The materials needed to aid the healing are then transported to the repair site. This is followed by chemical mending, which can involve entanglement and/or polymerization.

There are three types of self-healing materials;

  1. Polymers with a capsule base.
  2. Polymers of the vascular variety.  
  3. Polymers of the intrinsic variety.  

In terms of pneumonia and pulmonary emboli, a multi-layered healing arrangement is possible if a living catalysis is used. This involves placing the catalysis in a thermoset while maintaining the reactants in a monomeric state. Energy barriers are reduced by the catalysis and polymerization will occur without any temperature alteration. 

Nano Carbons –Two Types and Their Applications

To continue with our definition of functional materials, it is worth observing that carbon occurs in several forms. For example, atom-based hybridized structures are formed from carbon, and the resulting molecules are stable. Another way carbon occurs is as a diamond and graphite form of allotrope. Softer forms of carbon allow certain useful fiber types to be formed, used particularly in communications technology. Two carbon-based fibers that are highly efficient in their electromagnetic, electrical, mechanical and thermal properties are VGCFs and VGCNFs (Vapor Grown Carbon Fibers and Vapor Grown Carbon Nano Fibers respectively).

Other carbon-based allotropes are known as carbon nanotubes (CNTs), the cylindrical-type nanostructures. These classes of materials are widely used in communications technology because of their unique electrical and optical properties. Their mechanical and thermal properties help make them popular in structures, notably in sporting fields and in cars. There are other applications for CNTs, particularly where there is a need to enhance structural-type materials. Additionally, they are used on rusted metals and generally for remedying rust. CNTs are used in the manufacture of mechanically strong metal alloys used, for example, to support bridges and other heavyweight structures. They are used in the manufacture of heat and crack resistant clothing for soldiers. CNTs are also used in the manufacture of solar cells, transistors and amplifiers because of their highly efficient electromagnetic and electrical properties.    

Hermann Staudinger – How He Contributed to Polymer Chemistry

Polymers were discovered by Hermann Staudinger (born in Germany in March 1881). He won the 1953 Chemistry prize for his discovery and definition of functional materials. As well as polymers, Staudinger made other interesting discoveries. In 1903, after attending the University of Halle, he obtained his PhD, but his discovery of ketenes came later after joining the University of Strasbourg.

Later still, in 1907 he took the position of assistant professor at Technical University of Karlsruhe. It was here, while exploring the application areas of functional materials, he focused on isolating natural compounds, notably a synthetic coffee flavoring. When he had successfully completed the organic separations project, the chemistry of rubber caught his interest, which he partly researched at Karlsruhe and partly in Zurich. His 1920 research proposal stated that rubber and some other compounds (starch and proteins, for example) are long-chained molecular materials comprised of shorter units (with covalent bonds linking them).  

Some chemists objected to his proposal, notably those who had studied biomaterials and organic compounds and had earlier suggested the latter had high molecule weight because smaller molecules combined to form colloids. It was Mulhaupt who resolved the different opinions.

In 1926, Staudinger moved to the German University of Freiburg. Here, his research into molecules, the hypothesis of polymer and the theory and simulation of materials continued. Indeed, the remainder of his life and career was spent at Freiburg until he died (1965). During the 1930s, he provided well-founded evidence, which included membrane osmometry, viscosity measurement and x-ray diffraction, showing that polymer weight is the result of interlinking short chains. Herman Mark took Staudinger’s research further by showing the behavior of polymers under the diffraction of x-ray. That polymers can be prepared through natural reactions was confirmed by Carothers. Satisfied and impressed with his work, in 1936 Staudinger predicted that it would be possible to make synthetic fibers and other classes of materials in the future, if organic reactions were used to synthesize products with high molecular content.  


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