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Research Overview
The Robb group performs research at the intersection of synthetic organic, physical organic, and polymer chemistry. Our research primarily focuses on the rapidly emerging area of polymer mechanochemistry, where mechanical force is used to activate chemical transformations in mechanically sensitive molecules known as mechanophores to produce a wide range of functional responses. Our expertise is in the molecular design and development of new mechanophores and strategies, enabling access to stimuli-responsive polymers that address challenges in a variety of areas including molecular release and stress sensing. Ultimately, we seek to advance the fundamental understanding of mechanochemical reactivity by developing structure–activity relationships and novel molecular design principles, providing a foundation for creating innovative materials. Check out the Publications page for our latest research.
Also check out a recorded talk by Max discussing research in the Robb group that was presented as part of the NSF Center for Mechanical Control of Chemistry's Mechanochemistry Discussions (February 23, 2023).
As just one example, naphthopyran is a mechanochromic (color-changing) mechanophore that enables the visual detection of stress and strain in polymeric materials (see the scheme and video below).
Mechanochemical Activation of Naphthopyran in PDMS

Mechanochemical Activation of Naphthopyran in PDMS

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We are grateful to the following organizations for supporting our research:
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