Aqueous Copper(II) Photoinduced Polymerization of Acrylates: Low Copper Concentration and the Importance of Sodium Halide Salts

Photoinduced metal-mediated radical polymerization is a rapidly developing technique which allows for the synthesis of macromolecules with defined molecular weight and narrow molecular weight distributions, although typically exhibiting significant limitations in aqueous media. Herein we demonstrate that the presence of alkali metal halide salts, in conjunction with low copper concentration and UV irradiation, allows for the controlled polymerization of water-soluble acrylates in aqueous media, yielding narrow molecular weight distributions and high conversions. Despite the aqueous environment which typically compromises polymer end group fidelity, chain extensions have also been successfully performed and different degrees of polymerization were targeted. Importantly, no conversion was observed in the absence of UV light and the polymerization could be switched “on” and “off” upon demand, as demonstrated by intermittent light and dark periods and thus allowing access to spatiotemporal control.