Dendrimers AKA dendritic polymers
are monodisperse tree-like polymer molecules
. Each monomer
unit is also a branch
point, and so the dendrimer grows by a generation
at a time. As the number of generations
increases, the shape of the molecule
changes, and often becomes spherical
at high generation numbers
The environment inside the sphere may be suitable for carrying out polymerisation reactions or for drug delivery.
Applications are starting to emerge. These include the treatment of cancer by acting as x-ray opaque markers. (if the dendrimer is functionalised with the appropriate groups, of course). Display technologies may also benefit from the possibility of creating conductive polymers which can switch current depending on temperature or chemical environment.
They are scientifically interesting since they have unique properties which differentiate them from the conventional linear, branched and hyperbranched polymers.
The synthesis may be convergent or divergent, that is it may start from the outside and grow inwards or start from the inside and grow outwards.
Self assembly of spherical dendrimers into 3D lattices is possible. These dendrimers spontaneously self organise into a complex structure that may reconfigure into a different structure when the temperature or chemical environment changes.