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What is a dendrimer?

Dendrimers are highly branched, star-shaped macromolecules with nanometer-scale dimensions. Dendrimers are defined by three components: a central core, an interior dendritic structure (the branches), and an exterior surface with functional surface groups. The varied combination of these components yields products of different shapes and sizes with shielded interior cores that are ideal candidates for applications in both biological and materials sciences. While the attached surface groups affect the solubility and chelation ability, the varied cores impart unique properties to the cavity size, absorption capacity, and capture-release characteristics.

Applications of dendrimers
Applications highlighted in recent literature include drug delivery, gene transfection, catalysis, energy harvesting, photo activity, molecular weight and size determination, rheology modification, and nanoscale science and technology.1, 2

Dendrimer synthesis
Monodisperse dendrimers are synthesized by step-wise chemical methods to give distinct generations (G0, G1, G2, ...) of molecules with narrow molecular weight distribution, uniform size and shape, and multiple (multivalent) surface groups Z. Dendrons are monodisperse wedge-shaped sections of dedrimers with a single focal point reactive function. Hyperbranched polymers are polydisperse dendritic macromolecules synthesized by lower-cost polymerization methods.

(1) Functional Polymers and Dendrimers: From Synthesis to Application.
Proceedings of the American Chemical Society Division of Polymeric Materials: Science & Engineering, San Diego, CA, April 1-5, 2001; ACS, 2001
(2) Dendrimers and Other Dendritic Polymers, Jean M.J. Frechet and Donald A. Tomalia, J. Wiley & Sons (2001)