Amides as Non-polymerizable Catalytic Adjuncts Enable the Ring-Opening Polymerization of Lactide With Ferrous Acetate Under Mild Conditions


Sn-based catalysts are effective in the ring-opening polymerization (ROP) but are toxic. Fe(OAc)2 used as an alternative catalyst is suitable for the ROP of lactide only at higher temperatures (>170°C), associated with racemization. In the ROP of ester and amide group containing morpholinediones with Fe(OAc)2 to polydepsipeptides at 135°C, ester bonds were selectively opened. Here, it was hypothesized that ROP of lactones is possible with Fe(OAc)2 when amides are present in the reactions mixture as Fe-ligands could increase the solubility and activity of the metal catalytic center. The ROP of lactide in the melt with Fe(OAc)2 is possible at temperatures as low as 105°C, in the presence of N-ethylacetamide or N-methylbenzamide as non-polymerizable catalytic adjuncts (NPCA), with high conversion (up to 99 mol%) and yield (up to 88 mol%). Polydispersities of polylactide decreased with decreasing reaction temperature to ≤ 1.1. NMR as well as polarimetric studies showed that no racemization occurred at reaction temperatures ≤145°C. A kinetic study demonstrated a living chain-growth mechanism. MALDI analysis revealed that no side reactions (e.g., cyclization) occurred, though transesterification took place.
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