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J Am Chem Soc. 2007 May 23;129(20):6633-9. Epub 2007 Apr 28.

Synthesis of molecular brushes by "grafting onto" method: combination of ATRP and click reactions.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University, 4400 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


Molecular brushes (densely grafted polymers or bottle-brush macromolecules) were synthesized by the "grafting onto" method via combination of atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) and "click" reactions. Linear poly(2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate) (PHEMA) polymers were synthesized first by ATRP. After esterification reactions between pentynoic acid and the hydroxyl side groups, polymeric backbones with alkynyl side groups on essentially every monomer unit (PHEMA-alkyne) were obtained. Five kinds of azido-terminated polymeric side chains (SCs) with different chemical compositions and molecular weights were used, including poly(ethylene glycol)-N3 (PEO-N3), polystyrene-N3, poly(n-butyl acrylate)-N3, and poly(n-butyl acrylate)-b-polystyrene-N3. All click coupling reactions between alkyne-containing polymeric backbones (PHEMA-alkyne) and azido-terminated polymeric SCs were completed within 3 h. The grafting density of the obtained molecular brushes was affected by several factors, including the molecular weights and the chemical structures of the linear SCs, as well as the initial molar ratio of linear chains to alkynyl groups. When linear polymers with "thinner" structure and lower molecular weight, e.g., PEO-N3 with Mn = 775 g/mol, were reacted with PHEMA-alkyne (degree of polymerization = 210) at a high molar ratio of linear chains to alkynyl groups in the backbone, the brush copolymers with the highest grafting density were obtained (Y(grafting) = 88%). This result indicates that the average number of SCs was ca. 186 per brush molecule and the average molecular weight of the brush molecules was ca. 190 kg/mol.

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