Investigation of radical polymerization kinetics of poly(ethylene glycol) methacrylate hydrogels via DSC and mechanistic or isoconversional models
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Monomers composed of a polymerizable methacrylate moiety connected to a short poly(ethylene) glycol (PEG) chain are versatile building-blocks for the preparation of “smart” biorelevant materials. Hydrogels based on these PEG methacrylates are a very important class of biomaterials with several applications. The radical polymerization kinetics of two such oligomers, namely poly(ethylene glycol) methacrylate (PEGMA) and poly(ethylene glycol) methyl ether methacrylate (PEGMEMA) was investigated. Experimental polymerization rate and monomer conversion data were measured using DSC operating under non-isothermal conditions, at several constant heating rates, or isothermal, at different constant reaction temperatures. Isoconversional techniques were employed to estimate the variation of the polymerization effective activation energy as a function of the extent of reaction. It was found that isothermal and non-isothermal experiments results in similar trends of the activation energy, whereas by comparison of differential to integral isoconversional methods it was postulated that in non-isothermal polymerization experiments integral methods should not be used. From comparison of the two oligomers employed in the polymerization experiments, it was clear that the presence of the terminal hydroxyl group in PEGMA compared to the methoxy group in PEGMEMA leads to different conversion time profiles and activation energies. In particular, monomer–monomer association through hydroxyl groups results in initially lower activation energy of PEGMA. As polymerization proceeds, the existence of aggregated hydroxyl structures (···OH···OH···OH···) in the PEGMA macromolecular chains result in higher activation energies and a more abrupt increase in the conversion time curve.
KeywordsPolymerization kinetics DSC Isoconversional methods PEGMA PEGMEMA
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