Living cationic polymerization of styrene monomers

  • Yinghua Ma

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis describes an experimental investigation of synthesis of polystyrene under various polymerization conditions such as solvent polarity, temperature, initial concentrations of initiator, catalyst, monomer and added salts or co-catalyst, which was achieved using the living cationic polymerization technology in conjunction with gel permeation chromatography (GPC) and NMR spectroscopy.
Polymerizations of styrene were conducted using 1-phenyl ethylchloride (1-PEC) as an initiator and tin tetrachloride (SnCI4) as a catalyst in the presence of tetra-n-Butylammonium chloride (nBu4NCI). Effects of solvent polarity varied by mixing
dichloromethane (DCM) and less polar cyclohexane (C.hex), temperature, initial
concentrations of SnC14, 1-PEC and nBu4NCI on the polymerizations were examined, and the conditions under which a living polymerization can be obtained were optimised as: [styrene]o ~ 0.75 - 2 M; [1-PEC]o ~ 0.005 - 0.05 M; [SnCI4Jo ~ 0.05 - 0.4 M; [nBu4NCIJo ~ 0.001 - 0.1 M; DCM/C.hex ~ 50/0 - 20/30 v/v; T ~ 0 to -45°C. Kinetic studies of styrene polymerization using the Omnifit sampling method showed that the number average molecular weight (Mn) of the polymers obtained increased in direct proportion to monomer conversion and agreed well with the theoretical Mn expected from the concentration ratios of monomer to initiator. The linearities of both the 1n([MJoI[M]) vs. time plot and the Mn vs. monomer conversion plot, and the narrow molecular weight distribution (MWD) measured using GPC demonstrated the livingness of the polymerizations, indicating the absence of irreversible termination and transfer within the lifetimes of the polymerizations. The proposed 'two species' propagation mechanism was found to apply for the styrene polymerization with 1-PEC/SnCI4 in the presence of nBu4NCl.
The further kinetic experiments showed that living styrene polymerizations were
achieved using the 1-PEC/SnCI4 initiating system in mixtures of DCM/C.hex 30/20 v/v at -15°C in the presence of various bromide salts, tetra-n-butylammonium
bromide, tetra-n-pentylammonium bromide, tetra-n-heptylammonium bromide, and tetra-n-octylammonium bromide, respectively. The types of the bromide salts were found to have no significant effect on monomer conversion, Mn, polydispersity and initiation efficiency.
Living polymerizations of styrene were also achieved using titanium tetrachloride
(TiCI4) as a catalyst and 1-PEC as an initiator in the presence of a small amount of 2,6-di-tert-butylpyridine or pyridine instead of nBu4NCl. GPC analysis showed that the polymers obtained had narrow polydispersities (P.D. < 1.3), and the linearities of both the In([MJo/[MJ) vs. time plot and the Mn vs. monomer conversion plot demonstrated that the polymerizations are living, when the ratio of DCM and C.hex was less than 40 : 10 and the reaction temperature was not lower than -15°C. The reaction orders relative to TiCl4 and 1-PEC were estimated from the investigations into the rate of polymerization to be 2.56 and 1.0 respectively.
lH and 13C NMR analysis of the resultant polystyrene would suggest the end-functionality of the product polymers is chlorine for all living polymerizations.
Date of AwardJan 2000
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorAllan J Amass (Supervisor)


  • styrene
  • halide salts
  • tin tetrachloride
  • pyridine
  • GPC
  • NMR

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