Preparation and Characterization of a Small Library of Thermally-Labile End-Caps for Variable-Temperature Triggering of Self-Immolative Polymers

The reaction between furans and maleimides has increasingly become a method of interest as its reversibility makes it a useful tool for applications ranging from self-healing materials, to self-immolative polymers, to hydrogels for cell culture and for the preparation of bone repair. However, most of these applications have relied on simple monosubstituted furans and simple maleimides and have not extensively evaluated the potential thermal variability inherent in the process that is achievable through simple substrate modification. A small library of cycloadducts suitable for the above applications was prepared, and the temperature dependence of the retro-Diels–Alder processes was determined through in situ 1H NMR analyses complemented by computational calculations. The practical range of the reported systems ranges from 40 to >110 °C. The cycloreversion reactions are more complex than would be expected based on simple trends expected based on frontier molecular orbital analyses of the materials.