Polymer Molecular Weight and Chain Transfer During the Photopolymerization of an Aliphatic Monoacrylate in a Smectic Liquid Crystal

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Polymers and High Performance Materials


Polymer/liquid crystal (LC) composites offer a unique opportunity to study polymerizations in ordered media, specifically the potential effect mesophase order can have on polymer properties including molecular weight. To develop successful polymer/LC composites for display applications, it is important to understand the effect of mesophase order on polymer molecular weight in order to optimize the electrooptic (EO) properties of the polymerALC composite. Polymer molecular weight may be influenced in a LC by changes in polymerization rate as LC order is modulated and by chain transfer. This work focuses on the photopolymerization of an aliphatic monoacrylate monomer, decyl acrylate (DA), both in the ordered LC phases of 8CB as well as in isotropic solutions with LC and co-solvent. When DA is polymerized using the LC as the solvent, enhanced polymerization rates and polymer molecular weights are observed in the highly ordered smectic phase compared to the less ordered nentatic and isotropic phases. When conducted strictly in an isotropic environment using a co-solvent with increasing 8CB percentages, a dramatic decrease in the polymerization rate and a significant reduction of the polymer molecular weight is observed, implying degradative chain transfer to the LC. NMR results show that this chain transfer is a result of hydrogen abstraction from the liquid crystals, which leads to the reduction in the polymerization rate with increasing 8CB concentration. The most likely site of hydrogen abstraction is from the benzyl hydrogens of the alkyl chain of 8CB. This chain transfer also plays a role for polymerizations performed in the ordered phases of the LC. Chain transfer appears to be less significant when polymerizations are conducted in the smectic phase due to the anti-parallel association of the LC molecules. When polymerizations occur in the less ordered phases, chain transfer dominates leading to a large reduction in polymer molecular weight and polymerization rate. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

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