Thermo-responsive block copolymers based on poly(N-vinylcaprolactam) (PNVCL) have been prepared by cobalt-mediated radical polymerization (CMRP) for the first time. The homopolymerization of NVCL was controlled by bis(acetylacetonato)cobalt(II) and a molecular weight as high as 46,000 g/mol could be reached with a low polydispersity. The polymerization of NVCL was also initiated from a poly(vinyl acetate)-Co(acac)2 (PVAc-Co(acac)2) macroinitiator to yield well-defined PVAc-b-PNVCL block copolymers with a low polydispersity (Mw/Mn = 1.1) up to high molecular weights (Mn = 87,000 g/mol), which constitutes a significant improvement over other techniques. The amphiphilic PVAc-b-PNVCL copolymers were hydrolyzed into unprecedented double hydrophilic poly(vinyl alcohol)-b-PNVCL (PVOH-b-PNVCL) copolymers and their temperature-dependent solution behavior was studied by turbidimetry and dynamic light scattering. Finally, the so-called cobalt-mediated radical coupling (CMRC) reaction was implemented to PVAc-b-PNVCL-Co(acac)2 precursors to yield novel PVAc-b-PNVCL-b-PVAc symmetrical triblock copolymers. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Polym Sci Part A: Polym Chem, 2012
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