Zhixing Chen,1 Jaron A. M. Mercer,1 Xiaolei Zhu,1,2,4 Joseph A. H. Romaniuk,1Raphael Pfattner,3 Lynette Cegelski, 1 Todd J. Martinez,1,2,4* Noah Z. Burns,1* Yan Xia1*
Biological systems sense and respond to mechanical stimuli in a complex manner. In an effort to develop synthetic materials that transduce mechanical force into multifold changes in their intrinsic properties, we report on a mechanochemically responsive nonconjugated polymer that converts to a conjugated polymer via an extensive rearrangement of the macromolecular structure in response to force. Our design is based on the facile mechanochemical unzipping of polyladderene, a polymer inspired by a lipid natural product structure and prepared via direct metathesis polymerization. The resultant polyacetylene block copolymers exhibit long conjugation length and uniform trans-configuration and self-assemble into semiconducting nanowires. Calculations support a tandem unzipping mechanism of the ladderene units.