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Electronic Effects of Aluminum Complexes in the Copolymerization of Propylene Oxide with Tricyclic Anhydrides: Access to Well-Defined, Functionalizable Aliphatic Polyesters

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journal contribution
posted on 17.02.2016, 00:00 by Nathan J. Van Zee, Maria J. Sanford, Geoffrey W. Coates
The synthesis of well-defined and functionalizable aliphatic polyesters remains a key challenge in the advancement of emerging drug delivery and self-assembly technologies. Herein, we investigate the factors that influence the rates of undesirable transesterification and epimerization side reactions at high conversion in the copolymerization of tricyclic anhydrides with excess propylene oxide using aluminum salen catalysts. The structure of the tricyclic anhydride, the molar ratio of the aluminum catalyst to the nucleophilic cocatalyst, and the Lewis acidity of the aluminum catalyst all influence the rates of these side reactions. Optimal catalytic activity and selectivity against these side reactions requires a careful balance of all these factors. Effective suppression of undesirable transesterification and epimerization was achieved even with sterically unhindered monomers using a fluorinated aluminum salph complex with a substoichiometric amount of a nucleophilic cocatalyst. This process can be used to synthesize well-defined block copolymers via a sequential addition strategy.