Issue 20, 2020

Controlling the crystal structure of precisely spaced polyethylene-like polyphosphoesters


Understanding polymer crystallization is important for polyethylene-like materials. A small fraction of monomers with functional groups within the polyethylene chain can act as crystallization “defects”. Such defects can be used to control the crystallization behavior in bulk and to generate functional anisotropic polymer crystals if crystallized from a dilute solution. Due to their geometry, phosphate groups cannot be incorporated in the polyethylene lamellae and thus control chain folding and crystal morphology. Herein, the synthesis and crystallization behavior for three different long-chain polyphosphates with a precise spacing of 20, 30, and 40 CH2-groups between each phosphate group are reported. Monomers were prepared by esterification of ethyl dichlorophosphate with respective tailor-made unsaturated alcohols. Acyclic diene metathesis (ADMET) polymerization and subsequent hydrogenation were used to receive polyethylene-like polyphosphoesters with molecular weights up 23 100 g mol−1. Polymer crystallization was studied from the melt and dilute solution. Samples were characterized by differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), wide-angle X-ray scattering (WAXS), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and atomic force microscopy (AFM). A change in crystal structure from pseudo-hexagonal to orthorhombic was observed from the “C20” to the “C40” polymer. Melting points and lamellar thicknesses increased with the length of the aliphatic spacer from 51 °C (“C20”) to 62 °C (“C30”) and 91 °C (“C40”). Values for the long periods in bulk (3.1 nm for C20, 4.8 nm for C30, and 7.2 nm for C40) obtained by SAXS and TEM are in qualitative agreement. The thickness of the crystalline part obtained by AFM and TEM increased from about 1.0 nm (C20) to 2.0 nm (C30) to 2.9 nm (C40). Our systematic library of long-chain polyphosphates will allow designing anisotropic polymer colloids by crystallization from solution as functional and versatile colloid platform.

Graphical abstract: Controlling the crystal structure of precisely spaced polyethylene-like polyphosphoesters

Supplementary files

Article information

Article type
18 Feb 2020
03 May 2020
First published
05 May 2020
This article is Open Access
Creative Commons BY license

Polym. Chem., 2020,11, 3404-3415

Controlling the crystal structure of precisely spaced polyethylene-like polyphosphoesters

T. Haider, O. Suraeva, M. L. O'Duill, J. Mars, M. Mezger, I. Lieberwirth and F. R. Wurm, Polym. Chem., 2020, 11, 3404 DOI: 10.1039/D0PY00272K

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