Orthogonal functionalization of alternating polyesters: selective patterning of (AB)n sequences

20 September 2019

Chemical Science

Ni Yi, Thomas T. D. Chen, Junjuda Unruangsri, Yunqing Zhub and Charlotte K. Williams https://doi.org/10.1039/C9SC03756J

View Journal Article / Working Paper

Precision functionalized polyesters, with defined monomer sequences, are prepared using an orthogonal post-polymerization strategy. These polyesters can be synthesized from bio-derived monomers and are targeted to degrade, by hydrolysis processes, to biocompatible diols and diacids; the new structures enabled by this methodology would be very difficult to synthesize by alternative strategies. A series of 9 well-defined highly alternating AB-type copolyesters, containing terminal and internal alkene functionalities, are synthesized in high conversions by the ring-opening copolymerization of epoxides and cyclic anhydrides. Firstly, the polyesters are functionalized by a selective hydroboration–oxidation reaction to exclusively and quantitatively hydroxylate the terminal alkenes, leaving the alternating internal alkenes unreacted. Subsequently, the internal alkenes are quantitatively transformed into carboxylic acid, amine, alkyl and oligo-ether groups, by thiol–ene reactions, to afford AB polyesters with alternating functional substituents. Three polyesters showing alternating hydrophilic/hydrophobic side-chain sequences self-assemble in solution to form nanostructures that are characterized using transmission electron microscopy and dynamic light scattering methods (Rh = 100–300 nm). The selective patterning methodology provides facile, efficient and orthogonal functionalization of alternating polyesters with near-quantitative (AB)n repeat sequences. The method is expected to be generalizable to other polymers and provides access to completely new AB alternating structures with the potential to exploit ligand multi-valency and adjacency to enhance properties.