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Polymer Science and Engineering


The design of bioinspired polymers has long been an area of intense study, however, applications to the design of concrete admixtures for improved materials performance have been relatively unexplored. In this work, we functionalized poly(acrylic acid) (PAA), a simple analogue to polycarboxylate ether admixtures in concrete, with dopamine to form a catechol-bearing polymer (PAA-g-DA). Synthetic routes using hydroxybenzotriazole (HOBt) as an activating agent were examined for their ability in grafting dopamine to the PAA backbone. Previous literature using the traditional coupling reagent 1-ethyl-3-(3-dimethylaminopropyl)-carbodiimide (EDC) to graft dopamine to PAA were found to be inconsistent and the sensitivity of EDC coupling reactions necessitated a search for an alternative. Additionally, HOBt allowed for greater control over per cent functionalization of the backbone, is a simple, robust reaction, and showed potential for scalability. This finding also represents a novel synthetic pathway for amide bond formation between dopamine and PAA. Finally, we performed preliminary adhesion studies of our polymer on rose granite specimens and demonstrated a 56% improvement in the mean adhesion strength over unfunctionalized PAA. These results demonstrate an early study on the potential of PAA-g-DA to be used for improving the bonds within concrete.

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