Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOFMS) of narrowly dispersed molecular weight gel permeation chromatography (GPC) fractions was used to characterize random and microblock poly[(R)-3-hydroxybutyrate-co-ε-caprolactone] [P(HB-co-CL)] copolymers obtained via the acid-catalyzed transesterification of the corresponding homopolymers, poly([(R)-3-hydroxybutyrate] (PHB) and poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL). High-quality mass spectra were obtained, which made it possible to establish the nature of the polymer end groups. Besides the carboxylic termination, two other moieties were found: alcoholic and tosyl end groups. MALDI mass spectra of CL-rich samples possessed mostly tosyl end groups, while HB-rich samples possessed mostly alcoholic end groups, showing that the tosyl moiety is linked prevalently to CL terminal units. The higher resolution of electrospray ionization (ESI) mass spectra of lower molecular weight GPC fractions permitted the identification of the different oligomer species hypothesized in the assignment of the corresponding MALDI mass spectra. Partial methanolysis of these copolymers was explored as a method of producing mixed HB-CL oligomers to be utilized as new synthons, possessing a minor number of chiral centers from those obtained from hydrolysis of biotechnologically synthesized poly(hydroxyalkanoates) (PHAs). Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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