Studies in the anionic polymerization of methyl methacrylate

  • Colin J. Crook

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


A study has been made of the anionic polymerization of methyl methacrylate using butyllithium and polystyryl lithium as initiators and using aluminium triisobutyl as a cocatalyst. The aspects of the polymerization that were examined were the effect of changing the order of addition of reagents, the temperature at which polymerization takes place and the polarity of the solvent. Trends were assessed in terms of molecular weight, molecular weight distribution and tacticity. In addition, a second monomer addition test was carried out to verify that the polymerization was truly a living one, and a kinetic study was attempted.
Studies to investigate the effect of changing the order of addition of reagents showed that polymer with similar polydispersities and tacticities are produced whether the pre-mixing (mixing initiator and cocatalyst before addition of monomer) or the post-mixing (mixing monomer and cocatalyst before addition of initiator) method were used. However, polymerizations using the post-mixing mixing method demonstrated lower initiator efficiencies, possibly indicating a different initiating species. Investigations into the effect of changing the polymerization temperature show the molecular weight distribution to narrow as
the temperature decreases, although a small amount of low molecular weight tailing was also observed at low temperature. A clear relationship between tacticity and temperature was observed with syndiotacticity increasing with decreasing temperature. Changes in solvent polarity were achieved by using mixtures of the standard solvent, toluene, with varying amounts of cyclohexane, tetrahydrofuran or dichloromethane. Experiments at low solvent polarity (using toluene/cyclohexane mixtures) showed problems with initiator solubility but
produced polymer with lower polydispersity and higher syndiotacticity than in toluene alone. Experiments using toluene/THF mixtures yielded no polymer, thought to be owing to a side reaction between THF and aluminium triisobutyl. Increased solvent polarity, achieved using toluene/dichloromethane mixtures produced polymer with higher polydispersity and at lower yields than the conventional system, but also with higher syndiotacticity.
Second monomer addition reactions demonstrated that the polymerization was 'living' since an increase in molecular weight was observed with no increase in polydispersity.
Kinetic studies demonstrated the high speed of the polymerization but yielded no useful data.
Date of Award2000
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorAllan J Amass (Supervisor)


  • lithium alkyls
  • aluminium alkyls
  • tacticity
  • quench flow reactor
  • living

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