Why delta-valerolactone polymerizes and gamma-butyrolactone does not.

The Journal of organic chemistry (2008-03-08)
K N Houk, Arash Jabbari, H K Hall, Carlos Aleman

gamma-Butyrolactone, unlike delta-valerolactone, does not polymerize despite a strain energy of approximately 8 kcal mol-1 which could be relieved by opening the s-cis lactone ester bond to an s-trans ester bond in the polymer. To explain this anomaly, we have applied quantum mechanical methods to study the thermochemistry involved in the ring-opening reactions of gamma-butyrolactone and delta-valerolactone, the conformational preferences of model molecules that mimic their corresponding homopolyesters, and the variation of enthalpy associated to the polymerizability of such two cyclic lactones. The overall results indicate that the lack of polymerizability of gamma-butyrolactone should be attributed to the low strain of the ring, which shows much less geometric distortion in the ester group than delta-valerolactone, and the notable stability of the coiled conformations found in model compounds of poly-4-hydroxybutyrate.

Product Number
Product Description

δ-Valerolactone, technical grade