Polymerization of phenols catalyzed by peroxidase in nonaqueous media



Polymers produced by horseradish-peroxidase-catalyzed coupling of phenols have been explored as potential substitutes for phenol-formaldehyde resins. To overcome low substrate solubilities and product molecular weights in water, enzymatic polymerizations in aqueous-organic mixtures have been examined. Peroxidase vigorously polymerizes a number of phenols in mixtures of water with water-miscible solvents such as dioxane, acetone, di-methylformamide, and methyl formate with the solvent content up to 95%. As a result, various phenolic polymers with average molecular weights from 400 to 2.6 × 104 D were obtained depending on the reaction medium composition and the nature of the phenol. Peroxidase-catalyzed copolymerization of different phenols in 85% dioxane was demonstrated. Poly(p-phenylphenol) and poly(p-cresol) were enzymatically prepared on a gram scale. They had much higher melting points, and in addition, poly(p-phenylphenol) was found to have a much higher electrical conductivity than phenol-formaldehyde resins.