Double thermoresponsive graft copolymers with different chain ends: feasible precursors for covalently crosslinked hydrogels


The tailored synthesis of graft copolymers from acrylic and methacrylic monomers can be accomplished solely through photoiniferter reversible addition−fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization. Samples with poly[oligo(ethylene glycol) methacrylate] (POEGMA) backbones synthesized under green light irradiation and poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAM) side chains growing under blue light irradiation are presented. As monitored by temperature-dependent dynamic light scattering (DLS) measurements and temperature-variable nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, the architecture of the graft copolymers allows unique two-step lower critical solution temperatures (LCST) transitions in aqueous solutions. Meanwhile, different end-groups introduced by the corresponding RAFT agents affect the detailed thermoresponsive behavior remarkably. This RAFT strategy shows more advantages when the multiple trithiocarbonate groups are converted into thiol reactive pyridyl disulfide (PDS) groups via a facile post-polymerization modification. The PDS-terminated graft copolymer can then be regarded as a usable precursor for various applications, such as thermoresponsive hydrogels.
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