A guide to the synthesis of block copolymers using reversible-addition fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization
The discovery of reversible-deactivation radical polymerization (RDRP) has provided an avenue for the synthesis of a vast array of polymers with a rich variety of functionality and architecture. The preparation of block copolymers has received significant focus in this burgeoning research field, due to their diverse properties and potential in a wide range of research environments. This tutorial review will address the important concepts behind the design and synthesis of block copolymers using reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization. RAFT polymerization is arguably the most versatile of the RDRP methods due to its compatibility with a wide range of functional monomers and reaction media along with its relative ease of use. With an ever increasing array of researchers that possess a variety of backgrounds now turning to RDRP, and RAFT in particular, to prepare their required polymeric materials, it is pertinent to discuss the important points which enable the preparation of high purity functional block copolymers with targeted molar mass and narrow molar mass distribution using RAFT polymerization. The key principles of appropriate RAFT agent selection, the order of monomer addition in block synthesis and potential issues with maintaining high end-group fidelity are addressed. Additionally, techniques which allow block copolymers to be accessed using a combination of RAFT polymerization and complementary techniques are touched upon.