Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New catalyst process uses light, not metal, for rapid polymerization


UC Santa Barbara researchers develop a metal-free atom transfer radical polymerization process that uses an organic-based photocatalyst

A team of chemistry and materials science experts from University of California, Santa Barbara and The Dow Chemical Company has created a novel way to overcome one of the major hurdles preventing the widespread use of controlled radical polymerization.

Metal-free atom transfer radical polymerization uses an organic-based photocatalyst.

Credit: Peter Allen, UCSB

In a global polymer industry valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars, a technique called Atom Transfer Radical Polymerization is emerging as a key process for creating well-defined polymers for a vast range of materials, from adhesives to electronics. However, current ATRP methods by design use metal catalysts, a major roadblock to applications for which metal contamination is an issue, such as materials used for biomedical purposes.

This new method of radical polymerization doesn't involve heavy metal catalysts like copper. Their innovative, metal-free ATRP process uses an organic-based photocatalyst--and light as the stimulus for the highly controlled chemical reaction.

"The grand challenge in ATRP has been: how can we do this without any metals?" said Craig Hawker, Director of the Dow Materials Institute at UC Santa Barbara. "We looked toward developing an organic catalyst that is highly reducing in the excited state, and we found it in an easily prepared catalyst, phenothiazine."

"It's "drop-in" technology for industry," said Javier Read de Alaniz, principal investigator and professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UC Santa Barbara. "People are already used to the same starting materials for ATRP, but now we have the ability to do it without copper." Copper, even at trace levels, is a problem for microelectronics because it acts as a conductor, and for biological applications because of its toxicity to organisms and cells.

Read de Alaniz, Hawker, and postdoctoral research Brett Fors, now with Cornell University, led the study that was initially inspired by a photoreactive Iridium catalyst. Their study was recently detailed in a paper titled "Metal-Free Atom Transfer Radical Polymerization," published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. The research was made possible by support from Dow, a research partner of the UCSB College of Engineering.

ATRP is already used widely across dozens of major industries, but the new metal-free rapid polymerization process "pushes controlled radical polymerization into new areas and new applications," according to Hawker. "Many processes in use today all start with ATRP. Now this method opens doors for a new class of organic-based photoredox catalysts."

Controlling radical polymerization processes is critical for the synthesis of functional block polymers. As a catalyst, phenothiazine builds block copolymers in a sequential manner, achieving high chain-end fidelity. This translates into a high degree of versatility in polymer structure, as well as an efficient process.

"Our process doesn't need heat. You can do this at room temperature with simple LED lights," said Hawker. "We've had success with a range of vinyl monomers, so this polymerization strategy is useful on many levels."

"The development of living radical processes, such as ATRP, is arguably one of the biggest things to happen in polymer chemistry in the past few decades," he added. "This new discovery will significantly further the whole field."

Media Contact

Melissa Van De Werfhorst


Melissa Van De Werfhorst | EurekAlert!

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years
27.10.2016 | University of California - Los Angeles

nachricht 3-D-printed structures shrink when heated
26.10.2016 | Massachusetts Institute of Technology

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Prototype device for measuring graphene-based electromagnetic radiation created

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Gamma ray camera offers new view on ultra-high energy electrons in plasma

28.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

When fat cells change their colour

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>