Philipp Michael, Wolfgang H. Binder, Diana Döhler
Click chemistry has emerged as a significant tool for materials science, organic chemistry, and bioscience. Based on the initial concept of Barry Sharpless in 2001, the copper(I)-catalyzed azide/alkyne cycloaddition (CuAAC) reaction has triggered a plethora of chemical concepts for linking molecules and building blocks under ambient conditions, forming the basis for applications in autonomous cross-linking materials. Self-healing systems on the other hand are often based on mild cross-linking chemistries that are able to react either autonomously or upon an external trigger. In the ideal case, self-healing takes place efficiently at low temperatures, independent of the substrate(s) used, by forming strong and stable networks, binding to the newly generated (cracked) interfaces to restore the original material properties. The use of the CuAAC in self-healing systems, most of all the careful design of copper-based catalysts linked to additives as well as the chemical diversity of substrates, has led to an enormous potential of applications of this singular reaction. The implementation of click-based strategies in self-healing systems therefore is highly attractive, as here chemical (and physical) concepts of molecular reactivity, molecular design, and even metal catalysis are connected to aspects of materials science. In this Account, we will show how CuAAC reactions of multivalent components can be used as a tool for self-healing materials, achieving cross-linking at low temperatures (exploiting concepts of autocatalysis or internal chelation within the bulk CuAAC and systematic optimization of the efficiency of the used Cu(I) catalysts). Encapsulation strategies to separate the click components by micro- and nanoencapsulation are required in this context. Consequently, the examples reported here describe chemical concepts to realize more efficient and faster click reactions in self-healing polymeric materials. Thus, enhanced chain diffusion in (hyper)branched polymers, autocatalysis, or internal chelation concepts enable efficient click cross-linking already at 5 °C with a simultaneously reduced amount of Cu(I) catalyst and increased reaction rates, culminating in the first reported self-healing system based on click cycloaddition reactions. Via tailor-made nanocarbon/Cu(I) catalysts we can further improve the click cross-linking reaction in view of efficiency and kinetics, leading to the generation of self-healing graphene-based epoxy nanocomposites. Additionally, we have designed special CuAAC click methods for chemical reporting and visualization systems based on the detection of ruptured capsules via a fluorogenic click reaction, which can be combined with CuAAC cross-linking reactions to obtain simultaneous stress detection and self-healing within polymeric materials. In a similar concept, we have prepared polymeric Cu(I)–biscarbene complexes to detect (mechanical) stress within self-healing polymeric materials via a triggered fluorogenic reaction, thus using a destructive force for a constructive chemical response.