Closer to the ‘Holy Grail’ of polymer synthesis
Researchers are getting closer to the ‘Holy Grail’ of polymer synthesis, that is, having precise control over the location of monomers in a polymer chain.
Precise control over the location of monomers in a polymer chain has been described as the ‘Holy Grail’ of polymer synthesis. Controlled chain growth polymerization techniques have brought this goal closer, allowing the preparation of multiblock copolymers with ordered sequences of functional monomers.
In a paper published today in Nature Communications, researchers from Paul Sabatier University, University of Warwick and UNSW Australia including Professor Per Zetterlund from the School of Chemical Engineering show, however, that the statistical nature of chain growth polymerization places strong limits on the control that can be obtained.
They demonstrate that monomer locations are distributed according to surprisingly simple laws related to the Poisson or beta distributions. The degree of control is quantified in terms of the yield of the desired structure and the standard deviation of the appropriate distribution, allowing comparison between different synthetic techniques.
This analysis establishes experimental requirements for the design of polymeric chains with controlled sequence of functionalities, which balance precise control of structure with simplicity of synthesis.