Tuning the catalytic activity of L-proline functionalized hydrophobic nanogel particles in water
L-Proline functionalized PMMA nanogels with a range of catalyst functionalization (0.5–15 wt%) and cross-linking densities (0–50 wt%) were prepared via emulsion polymerization. The catalyst efficiency in water was investigated using a model asymmetric aldol reaction and an unprecedented reduction in catalyst loading, whilst maintaining high catalytic activity, is reported. In these reactions, a marked effect on selectivity was observed and determined to be dependent on the hydrophobicity of the nanogel particles. Furthermore, the effect of increasing cross-linking density on the catalytic efficiency of these particles (and their core–shell analogues) was explored and a significant reduction in activity was observed.