Molecular imprinting of synthetic polymers is a process where functional and cross-linking monomers are copolymerised in the presence of a target molecule (the imprint molecule), which acts as a molecular template. The functional monomers initially form a complex with the imprint molecule, and following polymerisation, their functional groups are held in position by the highly cross-linked polymeric backbone. Subsequent removal of the imprint molecule reveals binding sites that are complementary in size and shape. In that way, a molecular memory is introduced into the polymer, which is now capable of selectively rebinding the target.
Molecularly imprinted polymers can be regarded as antibody or receptor binding site mimics and have been applied in applications where molecular binding events are of interest, including tailor-made separation materials, antibody and receptor mimics in immunoassays and screening systems, and recognition elements in biosensors. These applications benefit from the higher chemical and physical stability of molecularly imprinted polymers compared to their biological counterparts, and their comparatively low cost.
This talk will cover the general principle of the molecular imprinting technique, as well as the main applications of imprinted polymers, with special emphasis on immunoassays and biosensors.