Yttrium Phosphasalen Initiators for rac-Lactide Polymerization

A series of highly active yttrium phosphasalen initiators for the heteroselective ring-opening polymerization of rac-lactide are reported. The initiators are yttrium alkoxide complexes ligated by iminophosphorane analogues of the popular “salen” ligand, termed “phosphasalens”. A series of novel phosphasalens have been synthesized, with varying substituents on the phenoxide rings and ethylene, propylene, rac-cyclohexylene, R,R-cyclohexylene, phenylene, and 2,2-dimethylpropylene groups linking the iminophosphorane moieties. Changing the substituents on the phosphasalen ligands results in changes to the rates of polymerization (kobs) and to the PLA heterotacticity (Ps = 0.87). Generally, the initiators have high rates, excellent polymerization control, and a tolerance to low loadings.