Anionic synthesis of a “clickable” middle-chain azidefunctionalized polystyrene and its application in shape amphiphiles


“Click chemistry” is, by definition, a general functionalization methodology (GFM) and its marriage with living anionic polymerization is particularly powerful in precise macromolecular synthesis. This paper reports the synthesis of a “clickable” middle-chain azide-functionalized polystyrene (mPS-N3) by anionic polymerization and its application in the preparation of novel shape amphiphiles based on polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane (POSS). The mPS-N3 was synthesized by coupling living poly(styryl)lithium chains (PSLi) with 3-chloropropylmethyldichlorosilane and subsequent nucleophilic substitution of the chloro group in the presence of sodium azide. Excess PSLi was end-capped with ethylene oxide to facilitate its removal by flash chromatography. The mPS-N3 was then derived into a giant lipid-like shape amphiphile in two steps following a sequential “click” strategy. The copper(I)-catalyzed azide-alkyne cycloaddition between mPS-N3 and alkyne-functionalized vinyl-substituted POSS derivative (VPOSS-alkyne) ensured quantitative ligation to give polystyrene with VPOSS tethered at the middle of the chain (mPS-VPOSS). The thiol-ene reaction with 1-thioglycerol transforms the vinyl groups on the POSS periphery to hydroxyls, resulting in an amphiphilic shape amphiphile, mPS-DPOSS. This synthetic approach is highly efficient and modular. It demonstrates the “click” philosophy of facile complex molecule construction from a library of simple building blocks and also suggests that mPS-N3 can be used as a versatile “clickable” motif in polymer science for the precise synthesis of complex macromolecules.

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Correspondence to Stephen Z. D. Cheng or Wen-Bin Zhang.

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Yue, K., He, J., Liu, C. et al. Anionic synthesis of a “clickable” middle-chain azidefunctionalized polystyrene and its application in shape amphiphiles. Chin J Polym Sci 31, 71–82 (2013).

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  • Living anionic polymerization
  • Polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane (POSS)
  • “Click” chemistry
  • General functionalization methodology (GFM)