Atom transfer radical polymerization from multifunctional substrates

Abstract: Atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) has proven to be a powerful technique to obtain polymers with narrow polydispersities and controlled molecular weight. It also offers control over chain-ends. The technique is the most studied and utilized of thecontrolled/”living” radical polymerization techniques since a large number of monomerscan be polymerized under simple conditions. ATRP can be used to obtain polymer graftsfrom multifunctional substrates. The substrates can be either soluble (i. e. based ondendritic molecules) or insoluble (such as gold or silicon surfaces). The large number ofgrowing chains from the multifunctional substrates increases the probability of inter-and intramolecular reactions. In order to control these kinds of polymerizing systems, andsuppress side-reactions such as termination, the concentration of propagating radicalsmust be kept low. To elaborate such a system a soluble multifunctional substrate, based on 3-ethyl-3-(hydroxymethyl)oxetane, was synthesized. It was used as a macroinitiatorfor the atom transfer radical polymerisation of methyl acrylate (MA) mediated byCu(I)Br and tris(2-(dimethylamino)ethyl)amine (Me6-TREN) in ethyl acetate at room temperature. This yielded a co-polymer with a dendritic-linear architecture. Since mostsolid substrates are sensitive to the temperatures at which most ATRP polymerisations are performed, lowering the polymerization temperatures are preferred. ATRP at ambienttemperature is always more desirable since it also suppresses the formation of thermally formed polymer. The macroinitiator contained approximately 25 initiating sites, which well mimicked the conditions on a solid substrate. The polymers had low polydispersity and conversions as high as 65% were reached without loss of control. The solid substrateof choice was cellulose fibers that prior to this study not had been grafted through ATRP.As cellulose fibers a filter paper, Whatman 1, was used due to its high cellulose content.The hydroxyl groups on the surface was first reacted with 2-bromoisobutyryl bromidefollowed by grafting of MA. Essentially the same reaction conditions were used that hadbeen elaborated from the soluble substrate. The grafting yielded fibers that were very hydrophobic (contact angles>100°). By altering the sacrificial initiator-to-monomer ratiothe amount of polymer that was attached to the surface could be tailor. PMA with degreesof polymerization (DP’s) of 100, 200 and 300 were aimed. In order to control that thepolymerizations from the surface was indeed “living” a second layer of a hydrophilicmonomer, 2-hydroxymethyl methacrylate (HEMA), was grafted onto the surface. Thisdramatically changed the hydrophobic behavior of the fibers.