Limitations of radical thiol-ene reactions for polymer–polymer conjugation

Authors

  • Sandy P. S. Koo,

    1. Preparative Macromolecular Chemistry, Institut für Technische Chemie und Polymerchemie, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Engesserstr. 18, Karlsruhe 76128, Germany
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  • Milan M. Stamenović,

    1. Department of Organic Chemistry, Polymer Chemistry Research Group, Ghent University, Krijgslaan 281 (S4-bis), Ghent 9000, Belgium
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  • R. Arun Prasath,

    1. Department of Organic Chemistry, Polymer Chemistry Research Group, Ghent University, Krijgslaan 281 (S4-bis), Ghent 9000, Belgium
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  • Andrew J. Inglis,

    1. Preparative Macromolecular Chemistry, Institut für Technische Chemie und Polymerchemie, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Engesserstr. 18, Karlsruhe 76128, Germany
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  • Filip E. Du Prez,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Organic Chemistry, Polymer Chemistry Research Group, Ghent University, Krijgslaan 281 (S4-bis), Ghent 9000, Belgium
    • Department of Organic Chemistry, Polymer Chemistry Research Group, Ghent University, Krijgslaan 281 (S4-bis), Ghent 9000, Belgium
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  • Christopher Barner-Kowollik,

    Corresponding author
    1. Preparative Macromolecular Chemistry, Institut für Technische Chemie und Polymerchemie, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Engesserstr. 18, Karlsruhe 76128, Germany
    • Preparative Macromolecular Chemistry, Institut für Technische Chemie und Polymerchemie, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Engesserstr. 18, Karlsruhe 76128, Germany
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  • Wim Van Camp,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Organic Chemistry, Polymer Chemistry Research Group, Ghent University, Krijgslaan 281 (S4-bis), Ghent 9000, Belgium
    • Department of Organic Chemistry, Polymer Chemistry Research Group, Ghent University, Krijgslaan 281 (S4-bis), Ghent 9000, Belgium
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  • Thomas Junkers

    Corresponding author
    1. Preparative Macromolecular Chemistry, Institut für Technische Chemie und Polymerchemie, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Engesserstr. 18, Karlsruhe 76128, Germany
    • Preparative Macromolecular Chemistry, Institut für Technische Chemie und Polymerchemie, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Engesserstr. 18, Karlsruhe 76128, Germany
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Abstract

In this work, we report our findings on the use of radical thiol-ene chemistry for polymer–polymer conjugation. The manuscript combines the results from the Preparative Macromolecular Chemistry group from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the Polymer Chemistry Research group from Ghent University (UGent), which allowed for an investigation over a very broad range of reaction conditions. In particular, thermal and UV initiation methods for the radical thiol-ene process were compared. In the KIT group, the process was studied as a tool for the synthesis of star polymers by coupling multifunctional thiol core molecules with poly(n-butyl acrylate) macromonomers (MM), employing thermally decomposing initiators. The product purity and thus reaction efficiency was assessed via electrospray ionization mass spectrometry. Although the reactions with 10 or 5 equivalents of thiol with respect to macromonomer were successful, the coupling reaction with a one-to-one ratio of MM to thiol yielded only a fraction of the targeted product, besides a number of side products. A systematic parameter study such as a variation of the concentration and nature of the initiator and the influence of thiol-to-ene ratio was carried out. Further experiments with poly(styrene) and poly(isobornyl acrylate) containing a vinylic end group confirmed that thermal thiol-ene conjugation is far from quantitative in terms of achieving macromolecular star formation. In parallel, the UGent group has been focusing on photo-initiated thiol-ene chemistry for the synthesis of functional polymers on one hand and block copolymers consisting of poly(styrene) (PS) and poly(vinyl acetate) (PVAc) on the other hand. Various functionalization reactions showed an overall efficient thiol-ene process for conjugation reactions of polymers with low molecular weight compounds (∼90% coupling yield). However, while SEC and FT-IR analysis of the conjugated PS-PVAc products indicated qualitative evidence for a successful polymer–polymer conjugation, 1H NMR and elemental analysis revealed a low conjugation efficiency of about 23% for a thiol-to-ene ratio equal to one. Blank reactions using typical thiol-ene conditions indicated that bimolecular termination reactions occur as competitive side reactions explaining why a molecular weight increase is observed even though the thiol-ene reaction was not successful. The extensive study of both research groups indicates that radical thiol-ene chemistry should not be proposed as a straightforward conjugation tool for polymer–polymer conjugation reactions. Head-to-head coupling is a major reaction pathway, which interrupts the propagation cycle of the thiol-ene process. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Polym Sci Part A: Polym Chem 48: 1699–1713, 2010

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