The Synthesis of Cellulose Graft Copolymers Using Cu(0)-Mediated Polymerization
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Cellulose is the most abundant renewable polymer on the planet and there is great interest in expanding its use beyond its traditional applications. However, its hydrophilicity and insolubility in most common solvent systems are obstacles to its widespread use in advanced materials. One way to counteract this is to attach hydrophobic polymer chains to cellulose: this allows the properties of the copolymer to be tailored by the molecular weight, density, and physical properties of the grafts. Two methods were used here to synthesize the graft copolymers: a ‘grafting-from’ approach, where synthetic chains were grown outward from bromoester moieties on cellulose (Cell-BiB) via Cu(0)-mediated polymerization; and a ‘grafting-to’ approach, where fully formed synthetic chains with terminal sulfide functionality were added to cellulose acetate with methacrylate functionality (CA-MAA) via thiol-ene Michael addition. The Cell-BiB was synthesized in the ionic liquid 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium chloride and had a degree of substitution of 1.13. Polymerization from Cell-BiB proceeded at similar but slightly slower rate than an analogous non-polymeric initiator (EBiB). The average graft density of poly(methyl acrylate) chains was 0.71 chains/ring, with a maximum of 1.0 obtained. The graft density when grafting poly(methyl methacrylate) was only 0.15, and this appeared to be due to the slow initiation of BiB groups. Using EBiB to model the reaction and improve the design should allow this to be overcome. Chain extension experiments demonstrated the living behaviour of the polymer. The CA-MAA was synthesized by esterification with methacrylic acid. Reactions of CA-MAA with thiophenol and dodecanethiol resulted in quantitative addition of the thiol to the alkene. The grafts were synthesized by Cu(0)-mediated polymerization from a bifunctional initiator containing a disulfide bond, followed by reduction to sulfides. The synthetic polymers were successfully grafted to CA-MAA but the grafting yield was limited by the low sulfide functionality. Better retention of sulfide functionality is necessary for more efficient grafting.