Controlled free radical polymerization in water-borne dispersion using reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer
A novel approach to conducting controlled free radical polymerization in water-borne organic dispersions using reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) has been studied. The novel approach in this study focused on eliminating monomer and oligomer transport and comprised two fundamental steps: the synthesis of dithiobenzoate-end-capped styrene oligomers in bulk followed by emulsification of these oligomers to yield a polymerizable water-borne dispersion. Dithioesters that act as chain transfer agents in the RAFT process were synthesized in situ. The free radical polymerization of the dithiobenzoate-end-capped styrene oligomers in the water-borne organic dispersion proceeded in a controlled manner: molar mass increased in a linear fashion with increasing conversion, while polydispersities remained low. The familiar red layer formation associated with RAFT polymerization in conventional emulsions was not observed under these conditions. The effects of changing the costabilizer (hydrophobe) and the degree of polymerization of the emulsified oligomers were investigated. Better control was achieved with a less hydrophilic costabilizer and for the shorter of the oligomers tested.