Tuning thermal properties and microphase separation in aliphatic polyester ABA copolymers
Four alkyl substituted β-lactones were investigated as monomers in ring opening polymerisation to produce a family of poly(3-hydroxyalkanoate)s. Homopolymers were synthesised using a robust aluminium salen catalyst, resulting in polymers with low dispersity (Đ < 1.1) and predictable molecular weights. ABA triblock copolymers were prepared using poly(L-lactic acid) as the A block and the aforementioned poly(3-hydroxyalkanoate) as the B block via a sequential addition method. Characterisation of these copolymers determined they were well controlled with low dispersities and predictable molecular weight. DSC analysis determined copolymers prepared from β-butyrolactone or β-valerolactone yielded polymers with tunable and predictable thermal properties. Copolymers prepared from β-heptanolactone yielded a microphase separated material as indicated by SAXS, with two distinct Tgs. The polymers could be readily cast into flexible films and their improved tensile properties were explored.