New ground for organic catalysis: A ring-opening polymerization approach to hydrogels

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Herein, we describe an organocatalytic living polymerization approach to network and subsequent hydrogel formation. Cyclic carbonate-functionalized macromolecules were ring-opened using an alcoholic initiator in the presence of an organic catalyst, amidine 1,8-diazabicyclo[5.4.0]undec-7-ene. A model reaction for the cross-linking identified monomer concentration-dependent reaction regimes, and enhanced kinetic control was demonstrated by introducing a comonomer, trimethylene carbonate. The addition of the comonomer facilitated near-quantitative conversion of monomer to polymer (>96%). Resulting poly(ethylene glycol) networks swell significantly in water, and an open co-continuous (water-gel) porous structure was observed by scanning electron microscopy. The organocatalytic ring-opening polymerization of cyclic carbonate functional macromonomers using alcoholic initiators provides a simple, efficient, and versatile approach to hydrogel networks. © 2007 American Chemical Society.