Extensive research has been carried out on functional polymers which are currently playing important roles in various fields such as medicine and engineering. Such functional polymers which respond to various kinds of stimuli are termed 'intelligent materials'. Poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAAm), a temperature-responsive polymer, was utilized as a chromatography column matrix modifier for a novel chromatographic approach in which only aqueous media are used as a mobile phase. The ability of the developed temperature-responsive chromatography system to separate solutes without using an organic solvent is advantageous from the point of view of maintaining the structure and activity of bioactive compounds. Recently, we designed and synthesized a new pH- and temperature-responsive copolymer as a representative of such environment-responsive polymers and grafted it onto aminopropyl silica beads. The products were evaluated as HPLC packing materials for separation systems based on a new concept, according to which the properties of the stationary phase surface are altered by external stimuli such as pH and temperature. This chromatography system utilizing the PNIPAAm copolymer is very useful for the separation of bioactive substances, such as proteins and peptides, because separation in the aqueous mobile phase is controlled solely by changing the temperature. This analytical system reduces organic waste because no organic solvent is used to separate the solutes and can therefore be classified as environmentally friendly. Future medical and pharmaceutical applications are expected.
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