As a result of the helical structure of the polymeric product, the folding-driven polymerization of oligo(m-phenyleneethynylene) imines in solution should inherently show nucleation-elongation in chain growth. Here, we present evidence for this behavior based on results of polymerizations conducted under conditions of imbalanced stoichiometry. Because the polymerization proceeds via imine metathesis between a pair of bifunctional monomers of types A-A and B-B, the molar ratio of the polymerizing functional groups can be arbitrarily varied. Alternatively, stoichiometry can be controlled by the addition of a monofunctional oligomer. Similar results were obtained in both cases whereby the molecular weight distribution was significantly different from that expected for classical step-growth polymerizations. At equilibrium, high molecular weight polymers were observed to coexist with the monomer in excess. Thermodynamic equilibrium was established by showing that the same distribution was reached starting either from a monomer mixture or from high polymers to which one monomer was added. These results are in great contrast to the low molecular weight oligomers that were produced when the reaction was conducted by melt condensation of bifunctional aldehyde and amine monomers, a polymerization that apparently proceeds without the nucleation event. An equilibrium model that captures the features of nucleation-elongation under conditions of imbalanced stoichiometry qualitatively supports the monomer-polymer distribution observed experimentally.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry