Precision synthesis of functional materials via RAFT polymerization and click-type chemical reactions

Joel Diez Flores


The need to tailor polymeric architectures with specific physico-chemical properties via the simplest, cleanest, and most efficient synthetic route possible has become the ultimate goal in polymer synthesis. Recent progress in macromolecular science, such as the discoveries of controlled/"living" free radical polymerization (CRP) methods, has brought about synthetic capabilities to prepare (co)polymers with advanced topologies, predetermined molecular weights, narrow molecular weight distributions, and precisely located functional groups. In addition, the establishment of click chemistry has redefined the selected few highly efficient chemical reactions that become highly useful in post-polymerization modification strategies. Hence, the ability to make well-defined topologies afforded by controlled polymerization techniques and the facile incorporation of functionalities along the chain via click-type reactions have yielded complex architectures, allowing the investigation of physical phenomena which otherwise could not be studied with systems prepared via conventional methods. The overarching theme of the research work described in this dissertation is the fusion of the excellent attributes of reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization method, which is one of the CRP techniques, and click-type chemical reactions in the precision of synthesis of advanced functional materials. Chapter IV is divided into three sections. In Section I, the direct RAFT homopolymerization of 2-(acryloyloxy)ethyl isocyanate (AOI) and subsequent post-polymerization modifications are described. The polymerization conditions were optimized in terms of the choice of RAFT chain transfer agent (CTA), polymerization temperature and the reaction medium. Direct RAFT polymerization of AOI requires a neutral CTA, and relatively low reaction temperature to yield AOI homopolymers with low polydispersities. Efficient side-chain functionalization of PAOI homopolymers was achieved via reaction with model amine, thiol and alcohol compounds yielding urea, thiourethane and urethane derivatives, respectively. Reactions with amines and thiols (in the presence of base) were rapid, quantitative and efficient. However, the reaction with alcohols catalyzed by dibutyltin dilaurate (DBTDL) was relatively slow but proceeded to completion. Selective reaction pathways for the addition of difunctional ethanolamine and mercaptoethanol were also investigated. A related strategy is described in Section II wherein a hydroxyl-containing diblock copolymer precursor was transformed into a library of functional copolymers via two sequential post-polymerization modification reactions. A diblock copolymer scaffold, poly[( N,N -dimethylacrylamide)-b -( N -(2-hydroxyethyl)acrylamide] (PDMA-b -PHEA) was first prepared. The hydroxyl groups of the HEA block were then reacted with 2-(acryloyloxy)ethylisocyanate (AOI) and allylisocyanate (AI) resulting in acrylate- and allyl-functionalized copolymer precursors, respectively. The efficiencies of Michael-type and free radical thiol addition reactions were investigated using selected thiols having alkyl, aryl, hydroxyl, carboxylic acid, amine and amino acid functionalities. The steps of RAFT polymerization, isocyanate-hydroxyl coupling and thiol-ene addition are accomplished under mild conditions, thus offering facile and modular routes to synthesize functional copolymers. The synthesis and solution studies of pH- and salt-responsive triblock copolymer are described in Section III. This system is capable of forming self-locked micellar structures which may be controlled by changing solution pH as well as ionic strength. A triblock copolymer containing a permanently hydrophilic poly( N,N -dimethylacrylamide) (PDMA) outer block, a salt-sensitive zwitterionic poly(3[2-(N -methylacrylamido)ethyl dimethylammonio]propanesulfonate) (PMAEDAPS) middle block and a pH-responsive 3-acrylamido-3-methylbutanoic acid (PAMBA) core block was synthesized using aqueous RAFT polymerization. A facile formation of "self-locking" shell cross-linked micelles is achieved by changing solution pH and salt concentration. The reversible "self-locking" is attained from the interactions of zwitterionic groups in the middle block that constitutes the shell of the micelles. The structure slowly dissociates into unimers in 2-3 days at pH above the pKa of the PAMBA block.