The ability to simultaneously image physical and chemical changes inside of polymers in real time during catalytic polymerization would be far-reaching. It would enable not only understanding of dynamic chemical and physical changes inside polymers with high spatiotemporal resolution, but also how these two features impact each other. Here, the development of fluorescence intensity and fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) that bridge these gaps is described. These techniques are developed to study real-time polymer growth through chemical imaging. These techniques have high spatial resolution for both chemical and physical changes — together these features of the method also provide a high sensitivity. Case studies in metathesis include uncovering a distribution of catalytic polymerization behaviors via single-turnover counting of molecular ruthenium catalysts during ring-opening metathesis polymerization, development of a spectroscopic fluorescence-lifetime method for the determination of the molecular weight of polymers in an ongoing reaction, and imaging of the real-time changing physical parameters inside growing polymers that pinpointing the impact of these parameters on the catalytic chemical reactivity of monomer insertion.
Prof. Suzanne A. Blum pioneers fluorescence imaging methods to understand organic chemistry reactions and processes, developing techniques spanning single-molecule, single-turnover, single-catalysts, single-particle, super-resolution, and fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) studies. These microscopy methods are advanced and leveraged to provide mechanistic insight into diverse reaction systems, including catalytic polymerization, sustainable organic chemistry in water, and oxidative addition to metals to generate organometallic reagents. Her research accomplishments have been recognized with an American Chemical Society Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award, a Humboldt Fellowship, and a National Science Foundation Career Award. She is an Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).