Efficient synthesis of narrowly dispersed brush copolymers and study of their assemblies: the importance of side chain arrangement

J Am Chem Soc. 2009 Dec 30;131(51):18525-32. doi: 10.1021/ja908379q.


Efficient, one-pot preparation of synthetically challenging, high molecular weight (MW), narrowly dispersed brush block copolymers and random copolymers in high conversions was achieved by ring-opening metathesis (co)polymerization (ROMP) of various macromonomers (MMs) using the highly active, fast-initiating ruthenium olefin metathesis catalyst (H(2)IMes)(pyr)(2)(Cl)(2)RuCHPh. A series of random and block copolymers were prepared from a pair of MMs containing polylactide (PLA) and poly(n-butyl acrylate) (PnBA) side chains at similar MWs. Their self-assembly in the melt state was studied by small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and atomic force microscopy (AFM). In brush random copolymers containing approximately equal volume fractions of PLA and PnBA, the side chains segregate into lamellae with domain spacing of 14 nm as measured by SAXS, which was in good agreement with the lamellar thickness measured by AFM. The domain spacings and order-disorder transition temperatures of brush random copolymers were insensitive to the backbone length. In contrast, brush block copolymers containing approximately equal volume fractions of these MMs self-assembled into highly ordered lamellae with domain spacing over 100 nm. Their assemblies suggested that the brush block copolymer backbone adopted an extended conformation in the ordered state.