Star-like polymer click-functionalized with small capping molecules: an initial investigation into properties and improving solubility in liquid crystals†
A novel class of polymer, star-like poly(tert-butyl acrylate) (PtBA) capped with 4-isocyano-4′-(prop-2-yn-1-yloxy)biphenyl (CNBP), with a well-defined size was synthesized via atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) and click reaction (i.e., azide–alkyne cyclization). The star-like architecture was composed of 21 separate arms connected to a high-functionality β-cyclodextrin (β-CD) core. The inner star-like PtBA blocks were hydrolyzed into poly(acrylic acid) (PAA), yielding star-like CNBP-capped PAA (i.e., star-like PAA-CNBP). The starlike polymers were characterized by gel permeation chromatography (GPC) and dynamic light scattering (DLS) to confirm narrow size distribution, as well as being examined by proton nuclear magnetic resonance (1H-NMR), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), Raman, and atomic force microscopy (AFM) to verify successful attachment of the click-functionalized capping agent (i.e., CNBP) with structural similarity to low molar mass liquid crystal, 4-cyano-4′-pentylbiphenyl (5CB). Structure and phase behavior were evaluated by AFM and optical imaging. Star-like PAA-CNBP was found to possess improved solubility in a liquid crystal host and interesting surface structures.