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Anal Chem. 2003 Oct 15;75(20):5517-24.

Mass spectrometric characterization of functional poly(methyl methacrylate) in combination with critical liquid chromatography.

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Polymer-Analysis Group, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Amsterdam, Nieuwe Achtergracht 166, 1018 WV Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


State-of-the-art techniques for the mass spectrometric characterization of synthetic polymers have been applied to functional poly(methyl methacrylate), synthesized by reversible addition-fragmentation chain-transfer (RAFT) polymerization. The polymers were first separated effectively according to functionality by liquid chromatography (LC) at the critical conditions (i.e., almost no influence of molecular weight on retention). The separated polymers were characterized off-line by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF-MS), and both off-line and on-line by LC-electrospray-ionization-quadrupole-TOF-MS (LC-ESI-QTOF- MS). The on-line ESI experiments confirmed a clear baseline separation of the hydroxyl-functional prepolymers according to the number of hydroxyl groups. Labile end groups of PMMA, such as the dithioester group, were lost in the MALDI-TOF-MS experiments, while they were observed intact in the ESI-QTOF-MS spectra. This indicates that in the present case ESI is a much softer ionization technique than is MALDI. The ESI-MS experiments provided direct evidence that the RAFT polymers still exhibited living characteristics in the form of the dithio moiety.

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