Cyclopolymerization of Ether Dimers of Alpha-(Hydroxymethyl)Acrylic Acid and Its Alkyl Esters: Substituent Effect on Cyclization Efficiency and Microstructures

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Polymers and High Performance Materials


Free-radical cyclopolymerization of six ether dimers of α-(hydroxymethyl)acrylic acid and its alkyl esters was kinetically investigated to evaluate the factors that control the cyclopolymerizability. A strong effect of ester substituent on cyclopolymerizability was observed and cyclization efficiency at 80°C increased in the following order: methyl, ethyl, isobornyl, t-butyl and adamantyl esters. That is, cyclization efficiency is found to be affected by the number of carbons linked to the central ester carbon (which defines the ‘effective’ bulkiness) rather than by the ‘apparent’ bulkiness, which encompasses the total mass or size of the whole substituent. Kinetic considerations of the temperature dependence of cyclization efficiency indicated that a strong contribution of the steric factor for bulky substituents (which inhibits intermolecular monomer addition) resulted in high cyclization efficiency despite a disadvantage in activation energy for cyclization. A linear relationship between the difference of activation energies (Ec − Ei) and the logarithm of the ratio of collision frequency factors (ln(AcAi)) observed for various esters led to recognition of an iso-efficiency point at which all esters show the same cyclization efficiency (kcki= 2.0mol l−1 at −45°C). This phenomenon is caused by the fact that both parameters change in proportion to the bulkiness of the ester substituent. The ether dimer of α-(hydroxymethyl)acrylic acid showed unexpectedly high cyclization efficiency (intermediate between secondary and tertiary esters) despite having the lowest substituent bulkiness. The kinetic parameters obtained showed some deviation from the linearity observed for the ester derivatives. The large AcAi obtained was attributed to the capability of hydrogen-bond formation between acid groups, which causes a favourable conformation for cyclization. Microstructures of the cyclopolymers were investigated by observation of carbonyl carbon peaks in the 13C nuclear magnetic resonance spectra. The peaks observed were assigned to four microstructures based on the combination of trans/cis configuration of the tetrahydropyran ring and racemic/meso configuration between the rings. Both the trans and racemic ratios increased with the bulkiness of the ester substituent. The values of Ecis − Etrans and AtransAcis for the t-butyl ester cyclopolymer indicated that trans formation is slightly favourable in both activation energy and steric factor, a result similar to that reported for the racemic/meso ratio in radical polymerization of some alkyl methacrylates. On the other hand, racemic formation between rings was suggested to be sterically unfavourable by the AracemicAmesoratio= 0.55. The glass transition temperatures for the cyclopolymers were found to be much higher than for the corresponding acrylates or methacrylates, and the thermal stabilities of some of the derivatives, especially the adamantyl compound, were also high.

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