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Toward Spatiotemporally Controlled Synthesis of Photoresponsive Polymers: Computational Design of Azobenzene-Containing Monomers for Light-Mediated ROMP

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journal contribution
posted on 23.08.2016, 00:00 by Qunfei Zhou, Ishan Fursule, Brad J. Berron, Matthew J. Beck
Density functional theory calculations have been used to identify the optimum design for a novel, light-responsive ring monomer expected to allow spatial and temporal control of ring-opening metathesis polymerization (ROMP) via light-mediated changes in ring strain energy. The monomer design leverages ring-shaped molecules composed of 4,4′-diaminoazobenzene (ABn) closed by alkene-α,ω-dioic acid linkers. The atomic geometries, formation enthalpies and ring strain energies of azobenzene (AB)-containing rings with various length linkers have been calculated. The AB­(2,2) monomer is identified as having optimal properties for light-mediated ROMP, including high thermodynamic stability, low ring strain energy (RSE) with cis-AB, and high RSE with trans-AB. Time-dependent DFT calculations have been used to explore the photoisomerization mechanism of isolated AB and AB-containing rings, and calculations show that trans-to-cis and cis-to-trans photoisomerization of the optimal AB­(2,2) ring molecule can be achieved with monochromatic green and blue light, respectively. The AB­(2,2) monomer identified here is expected to allow precise, reversible, spatial and temporal light-mediated control of ROMP through AB photoisomerization, and to have promising potential applications in the fabrication of patterned and/or responsive AB-containing polymer materials.