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Resilient Poly(α-hydroxy acids) with Improved Strength and Ductility via Scalable Stereosequence-Controlled Polymerization

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posted on 28.09.2021, 17:38 by Xiaoqian Wang, Ai Lin Chin, Jingyi Zhou, Hua Wang, Rong Tong
Despite the degradability and biocompatibility of poly­(α-hydroxy acids), their utility remains limited because their thermal and mechanical properties are inferior to those of commodity polyolefins, which can be attributed to the lack of side-chain functionality on the polyester backbone. Attempts to synthesize high-molecular-weight functionalized poly­(α-hydroxy acids) from O-carboxyanhydrides have been hampered by scalability problems arising from the need for an external energy source such as light or electricity. Herein, we report an operationally simple, scalable method for the synthesis of stereoregular, high-molecular-weight (>200 kDa) functionalized poly­(α-hydroxy acids) by means of controlled ring-opening polymerization of O-carboxyanhydrides mediated by a highly redox reactive manganese complex and a zinc-alkoxide. Mechanistic studies indicated that the ring-opening process likely proceeded via the Mn-mediated decarboxylation with alkoxy radical formation. Gradient copolymers produced directly by this method from mixtures of two O-carboxyanhydrides exhibited better ductility and toughness than their corresponding homopolymers and block copolymers, therefore highlighting the potential feasibility of functionalized poly­(α-hydroxy acids) as ductile and resilient polymeric materials.