Characterizing polymer macrostructures by identifying and locating microstructures along their chains with the kerr effect



In this brief report, we demonstrate that Kerr effect measurements, which determine the excess birefringence contributed by polymer solutes in dilute solutions observed under a strong electric field, are highly sensitive to and capable of determining their microstructures, as well as their locations along the macromolecular backbone. Specifically, using atactic triblock copolymers with the same overall composition of styrene (S) and p-bromostyrene (pBrS) units, but with two different block arrangements, that is, pBrS90-b-S120-b-pBrS90 (I) and S60-b-pBrS180-b-S60 (II), which are indistinguishable by NMR, we detected a dramatic difference in their molar Kerr constants (mK), in agreement with those previously estimated. Although similar in magnitude, their Kerr constants differ in sign, with mK(II) positive and mK(I) negative. In addition, S/pBrS random and gradient copolymers synthesized by reversible addition-fragmentation chain-transfer (RAFT) polymerization exhibit a heretofore unexpected enhanced enchainment of racemic (r) pBrS-pBrS diads. Comparison of their observed and calculated mKs suggests that the gradient S/pBrS copolymers possess an unanticipated additional gradient in stereosequence that parallels their comonomer gradient, that is, as the concentration of pBrs units decreases from one end of the copolymer chain to the other, so does the content of r diads. This conclusion could only be reached by comparison of observed and calculated Kerr effects, which access the global properties of macromolecules, and not NMR, which is only sensitive to local polymer structural environments, but not to their locations on the copolymer chains. Molar Kerr constants are characteristic of entire polymer chains and are highly sensitive to their constituent microstructures and their distribution along the chain. They may be used to both identify constituent microstructures and locate them along the polymer chain, thereby enabling, for the first time, characterization of their complete macrostructures. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Polym Sci Part B: Polym Phys, 2013