Switching from Controlled Ring-Opening Polymerization (cROP) to Controlled Ring-Closing Depolymerization (cRCDP) by Adjusting the Reaction Parameters That Determine the Ceiling Temperature

Full control over the ceiling temperature (Tc) enables a selective transition between the monomeric and polymeric state. This is exemplified by the conversion of the monomer 2-allyloxymethyl-2-ethyl-trimethylene carbonate (AOMEC) to poly­(AOMEC) and back to AOMEC within 10 h by controlling the reaction from conditions that favor ring-opening polymerization (Tc > T0) (where T0 is the reaction temperature) to conditions that favor ring-closing depolymerization (Tc < T0). The ring-closing depolymerization (RCDP) mirrors the polymerization behavior with a clear relation between the monomer concentration and the molecular weight of the polymer, indicating that RCDP occurs at the chain end. The Tc of the polymerization system is highly dependent on the nature of the solvent, for example, in toluene, the Tc of AOMEC is 234 °C and in acetonitrile Tc = 142 °C at the same initial monomer concentration of 2 M. The control over the monomer to polymer equilibrium sets new standards for the selective degradation of polymers, the controlled release of active components, monomer synthesis and material recycling. In particular, the knowledge of the monomer to polymer equilibrium of polymers in solution under selected environmental conditions is of paramount importance for in vivo applications, where the polymer chain is subjected to both high dilution and a high polarity medium in the presence of catalysts, that is, very different conditions from which the polymer was formed.