Paper of the week: A new platform for synthesis of functional aliphatic polyesters

‘Functional polymers open up applications with endless possibilities, where properties can be tailored, altered, and/or maintained over the complete lifetime of the material. In light of this, the focus today is on conferring function to the main chain of the polymer. One class of polymers that is inherently of great value for many applications is aliphatic polyesters; because of their ester functionality, they most often degrade within a reasonable time frame. Unfortunately, many of these monomers lack sites that allow alterations and modifications of the polymer backbone. Therefore, a major scientific focus has been on imparting different functionalities to aliphatic polyesters.’

Graphical abstract: Establishing α-bromo-γ-butyrolactone as a platform for synthesis of functional aliphatic polyesters – bridging the gap between ROP and SET-LRP

In this article, Albertsson and co-workers felt inspired to use γ-lactones as inexpensive and straightforward monomers that can bestow the desired functionality on commonly used aliphatic polyester. More specifically, they used α-bromo-γ-butyrolactone (αBrγBL) as a comonomer with ε-caprolactone (εCL) or L-lactide (LLA) to produce copolymers with active and available grafting sites, e.g., for SET-LRP, where the choice of the grafting monomers is limited only by one’s imagination. The authors believe that αBrγBL inherently holds all the prerequisites to act as a platform monomer for the synthesis of functional aliphatic polyesters, i.e., it is inexpensive, available, and able to form isolated grafting sites along the polymer chain. The incorporation of isolated αBrγBL is a feature that makes this class of copolymers unique and is considered to provide a route to the “perfect graft copolymer” with a degradable backbone.

Establishing α-bromo-γ-butyrolactone as a platform for synthesis of functional aliphatic polyesters – bridging the gap between ROP and SET-LRP by Peter Olsén, Jenny Undin, Karin Odeliusa and Ann-Christine Albertsson, Polym. Chem. 2014, 5, 3847-3854.

Julien Nicolas is a web-writer and advisory board member for Polymer Chemistry. He currently works at Univ. Paris-Sud (FR) as a CNRS researcher.

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