Journal of the American Chemical Society

End group characterization of poly(phthalaldehyde): surprising discovery of a reversible, cationic macrocyclization mechanism.

PMID 23924340


End-capped poly(phthalaldehyde) (PPA) synthesized by anionic polymerization has garnered significant interest due to its ease of synthesis and rapid depolymerization. However, alternative ionic polymerizations to produce PPA have been largely unexplored. In this report, we demonstrate that a cationic polymerization of o-phthalaldehyde initiated by boron trifluoride results in cyclic PPA in high yield, with high molecular weight, and with extremely high cyclic purity. The cyclic structure is confirmed by NMR spectroscopy, MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry, and triple-detection GPC. The cyclic polymers are reversibly opened and closed under the polymerization conditions. Owing to PPA's low ceiling temperature, cyclic PPA is capable of chain extension to larger molecular weights, controlled depolymerization to smaller molecular weights, or dynamic intermixing with other polymer chains, both cyclics and end-capped linears. These unusual properties endow the system with great flexibility in the synthesis and isolation of pure cyclic polymers of high molecular weight. Further, we speculate that the absence of end groups enhances the stability of cyclic PPA and makes it an attractive candidate for lithographic applications.

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Polyphthalaldehyde, Cyclic