RAFT polymerization of styrenic-based phosphonium monomers and a new family of well-defined statistical and block polyampholytes

Ran Wang
Andrew B. Lowe


We describe herein the first example of the controlled reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) radical homo- and copolymerization of phosphonium-based styrenic monomers mediated with a trithiocarbonate-based RAFT chain transfer agent (CTA) directly in aqueous media. In the case of homopolymer syntheses the polymerizations proceed in a controlled fashion yielding materials with predetermined molecular characteristics as evidenced from the narrow molecular mass distributions (MMD) and the excellent agreement between the theoretical and experimentally determined molecular masses (MM). We also demonstrate the controlled nature of the homopolymerization of 4-vinylbenzoic acid with the same CTA in DMSO. We subsequently prepared both statistical and block copolymers from the phosphonium/4-vinyl-benzoic acid monomers to yield the first examples of polyampholytes in which the cationic functional group is a quaternary phosphonium species. We show that the kinetic characteristics of the statistical copolymerizations are different from the homopolymerizations and proceed, generally, at a significantly faster rate although there appears to be a composition dependence on the rate. Given the inherent problems in characterizing such polyampholytic copolymers via aqueous size exclusion chromatography we have qualitatively proved their successful formation via FTIR spectroscopy. Finally, in a preliminary experiment we qualitatively demonstrate the ability of such pH-responsive block copolymers to undergo supramolecular self-assembly. (C) 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.