American Chemical Society
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All-Polycarbonate Graft Copolymers with Tunable Morphologies by Metal-Free Copolymerization of CO2 with Epoxides

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-06-18, 09:29 authored by Prakash Alagi, George Zapsas, Nikos Hadjichristidis, Sung Chul Hong, Yves Gnanou, Xiaoshuang Feng
Brush-type macromolecules (BMs) have attracted much attention over the past decades because of their unique properties and potential applications in nanoscience, drug-delivery systems, and photonics. A two-step strategy of synthesis of polycarbonate-grafted copolymers with either star-shaped or brush-typed morphologies using a “grafting from” approach is reported; the backbone in these all-polycarbonate graft copolymers is made of poly­(cyclohexene carbonate) (PCHC), and the side grafts are made of poly­(propylene carbonate) (PPC). In the first step, poly (vinyl-cyclohexene carbonate) (PVCHC) backbones of two different sizes (PVCHC35, PVCHC283) were prepared by copolymerization of vinyl-cyclohexene oxide (VCHO) with CO2 in the presence of triethylborane (TEB), using tetrabutyl ammonium succinate (TBAS) as the initiator. In the second step, the dangling vinyl double bonds of PVCHC were transformed into carboxylic acid groups. After partial neutralization of the latter using tetrabutyl ammonium hydroxide, the PPC grafts could be grown from the backbone carboxylic sites by copolymerization of propylene oxide (PO) with CO2 in the presence of TEB. Before attempting the synthesis of the above all-polycarbonate grafted copolymers, we check the viability of the above synthetic strategy by preparing graft copolymers made of a polymethacrylate backbone and PPC side grafts. In the latter case, the backbone was generated by reversible addition–fragmentation chain-transfer (RAFT) polymerization of methacrylic acid (MAA), followed by the growth of PPC side grafts using the backbone carboxylates as initiating sites. In both cases (PVCHC-g-PPC and PMAA-g-PPC), two types of architectures corresponding to two different morphologies were synthesized: star-shaped morphologies were obtained from rather short backbones, and relatively long grafts, on the one hand, and semiflexible cylinders were grown from rather long backbones and short grafts. These various structures were characterized by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and gel permeation chromatography/light scattering (GPC/LS), and their morphologies were further investigated by atomic force microscopy (AFM). The reported synthetic method provides a robust way to synthesize well-defined polycarbonates with either star-type or brush-type morphologies and graft copolymers made of polyacrylate backbones and polycarbonate grafts. Thermal and mechanical properties of these graft copolymers were also investigated.