Functional Polymers Containing Semi-Rigid Alternating Sequences

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Virginia Tech


Alternating copolymers represent a special class of copolymers in which the two comonomers copolymerize in a regular alternating sequence along the polymer chain. Of particular interest in our group are the stilbene-maleic anhydride/maleimide alternating copolymers. These copolymers possess sterically congested backbones and precisely placed functional groups arising from the strictly alternating copolymerization. The research in this dissertation is focused on the synthesis, characterization, and potential application of functionalized copolymers that contain semi-rigid alternating copolymer sequences.

The fluorescence properties of a series of non-conjugated, tert-butyl carboxylate functionalized alternating copolymers were investigated. Extraordinarily high fluorescent intensity with excellent linearity was observed for the di-tert-butyl group-containing stilbene and maleic anhydride alternating copolymer in THF. We attributed the origin of the strong fluorescence to the “through space” π – π interactions between the phenyl rings from the stilbene and C=O groups from the anhydride. The fluorescence was maintained when the copolymer was deprotected and hydrolyzed and the resulting carboxylic acid-functionalized copolymer was dissolved in water at neutral pH.

The tert-butyl carboxylate functionalized alternating copolymer sequences were incorporated into highly crosslinked polymer networks using suspension polymerization. After removing the tert-butyl groups by acidic hydrolysis, the surface area of the networks increased significantly. Using this facile two-step strategy, we were able to achieve nanoporous polymers with BET surface area up to 817 m2/g and carboxylic acid-functionalized surfaces. The BET surface area of deprotected polymers increased with increasing crosslinking density, and the stilbene-containing polymers showed systematically higher BET surface area than the styrene-containing polymers due to the stiffness of the alternating sequences. The resulting nanoporous polymers have potential to be employed as solid sorbents for CO2.

The same tert-butyl carboxylate functionalized alternating copolymer sequences were also incorporated into microgels via miniemulsion polymerization. The miniemulsion technique ensured the successful synthesis of microgels with ~100 nm diameter using solid stilbene and maleimide monomers. The resulting tert-butyl carboxylate-containing microgels were converted into carboxylic acid-containing aqueous microgels by acid hydrolysis. These aqueous microgels showed good and reversible lead and copper ion adsorption capacities.

Amine-functionalized nanoporous polymers were synthesized by the post-modification of highly-crosslinked divinylbenzene-maleic anhydride polymers. High amine-contents were achieved by covalently attaching multiamines to the acid-chloride functionalized polymer surface. The resulting polymers showed medium to high BET surface areas (up to 500 m2/g) and high CO2 capture capacities.



alternating copolymers, hypercrosslinked polymers, microgels, CO2 adsorption, fluorescence, heavy metal ion adsorption