Step-Growth Polymerization Towards the Design of Polymers: Assembly and Disassembly of Macromolecules

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Virginia Tech


Step-growth polymerization provided an effective method for the preparation of several high performance polymers. Step-growth polymerization was used for syntheses of poly(siloxane imides), polyesters, poly(triazole esters), poly(triazole ether esters), and epoxy networks. Each of these polymeric systems exhibited novel structures, and either photoreactive capabilities, or high performance properties.

There is an increasing trend towards the development of photoactive adhesives. In particular these polymers are often used in flip bonding, lithography, stimuli responsive polymers, drug delivery, and reversible adhesives. The ability to tailor polymer properties carefully with exposure to light allows for very unique stimuli responsive properties for many applications. This dissertation primarily investigates photoreactive polymers for reversible adhesion for use in the fabrication of microelectronic devices. In particular cyclobutane diimide functionality within polyimides and poly(siloxane imides) and o-nitro benzyl ester functionality within polyesters acted effectively as chromophores to this end.

Thermal solution imidization allowed for the effective synthesis of polyimides and poly(siloxane imides). 1,2,3,4-Cyclobutane tetracarboxylic dianhydride acted as the chromophore within the polymer backbone. The polyimides obtained exhibited dispersibility only in dipolar, aprotic, high boiling solvents such as DMAc or NMP. The obtained poly(siloxane imides) demonstrated enhanced dispersibility in lower boiling organic solvents such as THF and CHCl₃. Dynamic mechanical analysis and tensile testing effectively measure the mechanical properties of the photoactive poly(siloxane imides) and confirmed elastomeric properties. Atomic force microscopy confirmed microphase separation of the photoactive poly(siloxane imides). ¹H NMR spectroscopy confirmed formation of maleimide peaks upon exposure to narrow band UV light with a wavelength of 254 nm. This suggested photo-cleavage of the cyclobutane diimide units within the polymer backbone.

Melt transesterification offered a facile method for the synthesis of o-nitro benzyl ester-containing polyesters. ¹H NMR spectroscopy confirmed the structures of the photoactive polyesters and size exclusion chromatography confirmed reasonable molecular weights and polydispersities of the obtained samples. ¹H NMR spectroscopy also demonstrated a decrease in the integration of the resonance corresponding to the o-nitro benzyl ester functionality relative to the photo-stable m-nitro benzyl ester functionality upon exposure to high-intensity UV light, suggesting photo-degradation of the adhesive. ASTM wedge testing verified a decrease in fracture energy of the adhesive upon UV exposure, comparable to the decrease in fracture energy of a commercial hot-melt adhesive upon an increase in temperature.

Click chemistry was used to synthesize polyesters and segmented block copolyesters. Triazole-containing homopolyesters exhibited a marked increase (~40 °C) in Tg, relative to structurally analogous classical polyesters synthesized in the melt. However, the triazole-containing homopolyesters exhibited insignificant dispersibility in many organic solvents and melt-pressed films exhibited poor flexibility. Incorporation of azide-functionalized poly(propylene glycol) difunctional oligomers in the synthesis of triazole-containing polyesters resulted in segmented block copolyesters which exhibited enhanced dispersibility and film robustness relative to the triazole-containing homopolyesters. The segmented triazole-containing polyesters all demonstrated a soft segment Tg near -62 °C, indicating microphase separation. Dynamic mechanical analysis confirmed the presence of a rubbery plateau, with increasing plateau moduli as a function of hard segment content, as well as increasing flow temperatures as a function of hard segment content. Tensile testing revealed increasing tensile strength as a function of hard segment, approaching 10 MPa for the 50 wt % HS sample. Atomic force microscopy confirmed the presence of microphase separated domains, as well as semicrystalline domains. These results indicated the effectiveness of click chemistry towards the synthesis of polyesters and segmented block copolyesters.

Click chemistry was also used for the synthesis of photoactive polyesters and segmented block polyesters. The preparation of 2-nitro-p-xylylene glycol bispropiolate allowed for the synthesis of triazole-containing polyesters, which exhibited poor dispersibility and flexibility of melt-pressed films. The synthesis of segmented photoactive polyesters afforded photoactive polyesters with improved dispersibility and film robustness. ¹H NMR spectroscopy confirmed the photodegradation of the o-nitro benzyl functional groups within the triazole-containing polyesters, which indicated the potential utility of these polyesters for reversible adhesion.

Synthesis of the glycidyl ether of 2,2,4,4-tetramethyl-1,3-cyclobutane diol (CBDOGE) allowed for the subsequent preparation of epoxy networks which did not contain bisphenol-A or bisphenol-A derivatives. Preparation of analogous epoxy networks from the glycidyl ether of bisphenol-A (BPA-GE) provided a method for control experiments. Tensile testing demonstrated that, dependent on network Tg, the epoxy networks prepared from CBDOGE exhibited similar Young's moduli and tensile strain at break as epoxy networks prepared from BPAGE. Dynamic mechanical analysis demonstrated similar glassy moduli for the epoxy networks, regardless of the glycidyl ether utilized. Tg and rubbery plateau moduli varied as a function of diamine molecular weight. Melt rheology demonstrated a gel time of 150 minutes for the preparation of epoxy networks from CBDO-GE and 78 minutes for the preparation of epoxy networks from BPA-GE, with the difference attributed to increased sterics surrounding CBDO-GE. These results indicated the suitability of CBDO-GE as a replacement for BPA-GE in many applications.



Polycondensation, Polyaddition, Step-Growth Polymers, Epoxy Networks, Microbial Fuel Cells, Photo-active Polymers, Poly(siloxane imides), Polyesters, "Click" Chemistry, Stimuli Responsive Polymers, Bisphenol-A, BPA