The kinetics of heterogeneous polymerization is determined directly using small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS). This important advancement is exemplified for the synthesis of sterically-stabilized diblock copolymer nanoparticles by reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) dispersion polymerization of benzyl methacrylate (BzMA) in mineral oil at 90 °C. The principle of mass balance is invoked to derive a series of equations for the analysis of the resulting time-resolved SAXS patterns. Importantly, there is a continuous change in the X-ray scattering length density for the various components within the reaction mixture. This enables the volume fraction of unreacted BzMA monomer to be calculated at any given time point, which enables the polymerization kinetics to be monitored in situ directly without relying on supplementary characterization techniques. Moreover, SAXS enables the local concentration of both monomer and solvent within the growing swollen nanoparticles to be determined during the polymerization. Data analysis reveals that the instantaneous rate of BzMA polymerization is proportional to the local monomer concentration within the nanoparticles. In principle, this powerful new time-resolved SAXS approach can be applicable to other heterogeneous polymerization formulations.
Bibliographical note© 2023 The Authors. Angewandte Chemie International Edition published by Wiley-VCH GmbH
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- Block Copolymer Nanoparticles
- Polymerization Kinetics
- Polymerization-Induced Self-Assembly
- RAFT Dispersion Polymerization
- Time-Resolved Small-Angle X-Ray Scattering