Amphiphilic polymethacrylate model co-networks: Synthesis by RAFT radical polymerization and characterization of the swelling behavior
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Reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) controlled radical polymerization was employed, for the first time, to prepare well-defined (model) amphiphilic polymer co-networks based on n-butyl methacrylate (BuMA, hydrophobic monomer) and 2-(dimethylamino)ethyl methacrylate (DMAEMA, hydrophilic ionizable monomer) cross-linked with ethylene glycol dimethacrylate (EGDMA) and bearing elastic chains having the following comonomer distributions: BuMA-b-DMAEMA-b-BuMA and DMAEMA-b-BuMA-b-DMAEMA triblock and BuMA-co-DMAEMA statistical copolymers. Two randomly cross-linked (not model) amphiphilic co-networks were also synthesized, the one by RAFT and the other by conventional free radical polymerization. The amphiphilic triblock copolymer-based model co-networks were obtained by stepwise synthesis in three stages: (1) the synthesis of linear homopolymers bearing two active ends by using a bifunctional chain transfer agent (CTA), (2) the sequential addition of the second monomer on the macro-CTAs (homopolymers) to yield linear ABA or BAB triblock copolymers, and (3) the inter-linking of the linear copolymer chains at both ends using EGDMA cross-linker to form the final model co-networks. The homopolymer and copolymer precursors to the networks were characterized using gel permeation chromatography and 1H NMR spectroscopy. The swelling behavior of the networks was investigated in tetrahydrofuran and water. The co-networks swelled more in acidic than in neutral water due to the ionization of their DMAEMA units. The low pH aqueous swelling of the statistical co-network was higher than those of its triblock counterparts due to the lack of microphase separation with the statistical copolymer chains. © 2006 American Chemical Society.