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Simple Monomers for Precise Polymer Functionalization During Ring-Opening Metathesis Polymerization

by Jeffrey C Foster, Joshua T Damron, Honghai Zhang
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Controlling the monomer sequence of synthetic polymers is a grand challenge in polymer science. Conventional sequence control has been achieved in dispersed polymers by exploiting the kinetic tendencies of monomers and their order of addition. While the sequence of blocks in multiblock copolymers can be readily tuned using sequential addition of monomers (SAM), control over the sequence distribution is eroded as the targeted block size approaches a single monomer unit (i.e., Xn ∼ 1) due to the stochastic nature of chain-growth reactions. Thus, unique monomers are needed to ensure precise single additions. Herein, we investigate common classes of cyclic olefin monomers for ring-opening metathesis polymerization (ROMP) to identify monomers for single unit addition during sequential monomer addition synthesis. Through careful analysis of polymerization kinetics, we find that easily synthesized oxanorbornene imide monomers are suitable for single-addition reactions. With the identified monomers, we demonstrate the synthesis of multiblock copolymers containing up to three precise functionalization sites and singly cross-linked four-armed star copolymers. We envision that expanded kinetic analyses of monomer reactivities in ROMP reactions will enable novel polymer synthesis capabilities such as the autonomous synthesis of sequence-defined polymers or one-shot multiblock copolymer syntheses.