Dendrimer-like star block and amphiphilic copolymers by combination of ring opening and atom transfer radical polymerization

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A new type of macromolecular architecture, denoted as dendrimer-like star block copolymers, is reported. These block copolymers are described by a radial geometry where the different generations or layers are comprised of high molecular weight polymer emanating from a central core. A hexahydroxyl functional core was used as an initiator for the "living" ring opening polymerization (ROP) of ∈-caprolactone producing a hydroxyl terminated six arm star polymer with controlled molecular weight and narrow polydispersities (PD < 1.1). Capping these chain ends with dendrons containing activated bromide moieties produced "macro-initiators" for atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP). Methyl methacrylate was polymerized from these "macro-initiators" in the presence of an organometallic promoter to produce the requisite dendrimer-like star polymers. High molecular weight was obtained with low polydispersities (<1.2). Alternatively, amphiphilic character could be introduced by designing the different layers or generations to be either hydrophobic or hydrophilic. For example, methyl methacrylate (MMA) with either hydroxyethyl methacrylate (HEMA) or methacrylate functional ethylene oxide macromonomers (EO) were polymerized from these "macro-initiators" to provide a hydrophilic outer layer. The use of macromolecular building blocks allows rapid attainment of high polymer in a limited number of steps with purification between transformation requiring only polymer precipitation.