Tunable Thermoresponsive Pyrrolidone-Based Polymers from Pyroglutamic Acid, a Bio-Derived Resource



A series of pyrrolidone-based polymers is prepared from pyroglutamic acid, a bio-derived resource. Polymers bearing simple alkoxy substituents (e.g., methoxy, ethoxy, and butoxy) are soluble in common organic solvents and possess glass transition temperatures that are dependent on the length of the alkoxy residue. Replacing these substituents with an ether moiety (CH3OCH2CH2O—) affords a highly sensitive and reversible thermoresponsive polymer with a lower critical solution temperature (LCST) of 42 °C in water. Copolymers composed of repeat units bearing both the ether and simple alkoxy residues are found to exhibit LCSTs that are highly dependent on the nature of the hydrophobic alkoxy residue suggesting that the LCSTs of these polymers can be successfully tuned by simply tailoring the copolymer structure.