Optimization of ring-opening metathesis polymerization (ROMP) under physiologically relevant conditions†
Ring opening metathesis polymerization (ROMP) is widely considered an excellent living polymerization technique that proceeds rapidly under ambient conditions and is highly functional group tolerant when performed in organic solvents. However, achieving the same level of success in aqueous media has proved to be challenging, often requiring an organic co-solvent or a very low pH to obtain fast initiation and high monomer conversion. The ability to efficiently conduct ROMP under neutral pH aqueous conditions would mark an important step towards utilizing aqueous ROMP with acid-sensitive functional groups or within a biological setting. Herein we describe our efforts to optimize ROMP in an aqueous environment under neutral pH conditions. Specifically, we found that the presence of excess chloride in solution as well as relatively small changes in pH near physiological conditions have a profound effect on molecular weight control, polymerization rate and overall monomer conversion. Additionally, we have applied our optimized conditions to polymerize a broad scope of water-soluble monomers and used this methodology to produce nanostructures via ring opening metathesis polymerization induced self-assembly (ROMPISA) under neutral pH aqueous conditions.