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Photogeneration of Gelatinous Networks from Pre-existing Polymers


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In this manuscript we report the crosslinking
of pre-existing macromolecules in solution through the use
of photoactive benzophenone chromophores. We show that
a bifunctional crosslinker composed of two benzophenone
chromophores as well as a single benzophenone chromophore
crosslink poly (butadiene) and poly (ethylene oxide)
in solution to form insoluble gels when irradiated with UV
light. The molecular weight between crosslinks of the photogenerated
gels was compared for the two crosslinkers, for an
equivalent amount of benzophenone chromophores in each
solution, by measuring the swelling ratio of the gels formed.
Gels formed from the bifunctional benzophenone crosslinker
were shown to contain more than twice as many
crosslinks compared to gels formed from the crosslinker
composed of a single benzophenone chromophore. EPR
measurements of a nitroxide derivative absorbed into the
gels further supported a higher crosslink density for the
gels formed from the bifunctional benzophenone crosslinker.

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Photogeneration of Gelatinous Networks from Pre-existing Polymers

  1. 1. Photogeneration of Gelatinous Networks fromPre-Existing PolymersGregory T. Carroll,1L. Devon Triplett,1Alberto Moscatelli,1Jeffrey T. Koberstein,2Nicholas J. Turro1,21Department of Chemistry, Columbia University, MC 3157, New York, New York 100272Department of Chemical Engineering, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027Received 14 November 2010; accepted 23 December 2010DOI 10.1002/app.34133Published online 20 April 2011 in Wiley Online Library ( In this manuscript we report the crosslinkingof pre-existing macromolecules in solution through the useof photoactive benzophenone chromophores. We show thata bifunctional crosslinker composed of two benzophenonechromophores as well as a single benzophenone chromo-phore crosslink poly (butadiene) and poly (ethylene oxide)in solution to form insoluble gels when irradiated with UVlight. The molecular weight between crosslinks of the photo-generated gels was compared for the two crosslinkers, for anequivalent amount of benzophenone chromophores in eachsolution, by measuring the swelling ratio of the gels formed.Gels formed from the bifunctional benzophenone cross-linker were shown to contain more than twice as manycrosslinks compared to gels formed from the crosslinkercomposed of a single benzophenone chromophore. EPRmeasurements of a nitroxide derivative absorbed into thegels further supported a higher crosslink density for thegels formed from the bifunctional benzophenone crosslinker.VC 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci 122: 168–174, 2011Key words: crosslink; gels; benzophenone; photochemistry;swellingINTRODUCTIONThe physical properties of polymer solutions can bemodified by crosslinking the chains to form anextended network (Fig. 1). Such networks offerincreased durability1compared to their uncros-slinked counter-parts and are pertinent in a varietyof current and future applications includingabsorbent2,3and elastic4materials, photoresists formicro- and nanofabrication,5,6membranes,7,8tissueengineering,9and controlled drug release.10Theproperties of crosslinked polymers depend on thecrosslink density. As more crosslinks are formed theviscosity of the sample will increase. At the gel pointthe system undergoes a sharp transition at whichthe network becomes macroscopic and acts like anelastic solid rather than a viscous liquid.11Such anetwork is said to be infinite with every chain form-ing a bond with at least two other chains. Whensuch a gel is placed in a good solvent, rather thandissolve, the gel will absorb the liquid and swell.Although a gel has mechanical properties associatedwith solids such as a nonzero sheer modulus, a largefraction of the gel can consist of solvent.12Some gelscan absorb an amount of solvent that is hundreds oftimes the mass of the dry gel.2,3A variety of photochemical methods have beenreported for crosslinking polymers.6Many methodsrely on crosslinkable pendant groups in the chain.Polymers containing groups susceptible to polymer-ization via a photo-initiated process provide suitablependant groups for photo-crosslinking. For example,acetylene containing polymers have been crosslinkedby irradiation in the presence of tungsten hexacar-bonyl.13Other methods require only a photo-activefunctional group. Polymers containing various C¼¼Cgroups can be dimerized via a photo-induced cyclo-addition. Specific examples include polymers con-taining pendant cinnamate14and anthracene15,16groups. Irradiation of polymers containing phenolicOAH groups results in the cleavage of the OAHbond.17The resulting phenoxyl radicals can dimerizeto form a crosslink. The reaction is facilitated in thepresence of oxygen, which can abstract a hydrogenatom from the phenolic OAH group. Poly (styrene)(PS) similarly undergoes crosslinking by direct exci-tation of the phenyl ring.18,19Energy transfer resultsin the cleavage of a benzylic CAH bond. The result-ing radicals undergo secondary processes that resultin crosslinks. Polymers containing photo-activependant groups that can generate species that reactwith CAH and other common functionalities uponabsorption of a photon have also been used to cross-link polymers. Pendant benzophenone20and azide21Correspondence to: N. J. Turro ( grant sponsor: National Science Foundation;contract grant numbers: 0717518, DMR 0703054Journal of Applied Polymer Science, Vol. 122, 168–174 (2011)VC 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
  2. 2. moieties have been used to effect crosslinks in thisway. Incorporating chromophores that react withCAH and other functionalities into bifunctional mol-ecules provides a more general protocol for cross-linking, allowing networks to be formed from pre-existing polymers that do not contain photo-activegroups.22,23Crosslinks are generated by recombina-tion of macroradicals or recombination of both sidesof the bi-functional molecule with a polymer. Mono-functional reactive compounds that can abstract onlyone hydrogen atom to form radicals are also capableof generating crosslinks in polymers by formingmacroradicals that recombine to form covalentbonds.24,25Even more general, irradiating polymerswith deep UV can cause crosslinking by chain scis-sion followed by recombination of the resulting radi-cals.6This can potentially damage functional groupsin the chain, compromising the functional propertiesof the resulting crosslinked network.The ability to crosslink polymers without priorchemical derivatization or synthesis of a polymerwith pendant photo-active groups is of interestbecause it avoids the often-laborious and expensivetask of synthetic chemistry. We previously demon-strated a photochemical method for crosslinking andpatterning pre-existing poly (styrene) (PS) filmsthrough the use of bisbenzophenone additives.23Inthis report we utilize the methodology for crosslink-ing polymers in solution to form macroscopic net-works. We provide evidence that crosslinking resultsfrom the photo-generation of radical species. Wecompare the swelling properties of networks formedby both bis- and mono-functional benzophenone.METHODSbis-BP was synthesized according to a previouslyreported procedure.23After chromatography the productwas further purified by recystallization from methanol.Photochemical crosslinking in solutionBoth PBD and PEO gels were prepared in solutionsthat were deoxygenated by bubbling with argon for10 min followed by irradiation with a Rayonet pho-tochemical reactor containing bulbs that emit at 350nm. In a typical procedure for preparing PBD gels3.5 lmol (0.01744 g) of bis-BP were added to a solu-tion of 27.4 lmol (0.01312 g) of PBD in 2 mL of ben-zene. The sample was irradiated for 2 h. In a typicalprocedure for preparing PEO gels 29.2 lmol (0.01397g) of bis-BP was added to a solution of 0.097 lmol(0.0194 g) of PEO (200,000 K) (Acros) in 2 mL of ace-tonitrile. PEO gels made with BP (Acros) were simi-larly prepared using a 2Â molar amount of BP tokeep the amount of chromophores equal betweenthe two samples. Samples were irradiated for 5 hand 40 min.Swelling measurementsPhoto-generated gels were soaked in good solventfor 3 days, changing the solvent each day before per-forming swelling measurements. Gels were thendried at room temperature in a vacuum oven untilan unchanging dry weight was obtained. Gels werethen soaked in a given solvent for 1 day. Gels wereremoved from the solvent, lightly tapped with Tef-lon tape to remove excess solvent at the surface andweighed. Gels were then placed back in the vacuumoven to repeat the measurements.Instrumental measurementsEPR measurements were performed using a BrukerEMX EPR spectrometer. Photo-generated PEO gels($ 4 h of irradiation with set-up described above)were soaked overnight in a solution of 33.4 lmol(0.00568 g) of 4-Oxo-Tempo in 6.7 mL of acetonitrile.The nitroxide solution was removed, the sampleswere each rinsed twice with DI water, and EPRspectra were taken of the two gels.RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONBenzophenone chromophores26are known toundergo hydrogen abstraction reactions with hydro-gen atom donors such as CAH groups, and thus areFigure 1 Schematic of the transformation of a group of polymer chains (left) into a single gel of crosslinked macromole-cules (right).PHOTOGENERATION OF GELATINOUS NETWORKS 169Journal of Applied Polymer Science DOI 10.1002/app
  3. 3. capable of crosslinking a wide variety of differentpolymer types as long as they possess CAH bonds.We examined the solution-phase crosslinking poten-tial of both bis- (bis-BP) and mono-functional benzo-phenone (BP), both of which are shown in Figure 2.Benzophenone is well suited for our studies for a va-riety of reasons. It is generally not reactive whenkept in the dark. It can be excited at wavelengthsabove 350 nm, which is generally less destructivethan shorter wavelength UV. Its photophysical andphotochemical properties have been well studied,including its propensity for hydrogen abstraction.26BP has previously been shown to crosslink poly-mers.24The proposed mechanism involves theformation of macroradicals by hydrogen abstractionfollowed by recombination. We reasoned that incor-porating multiple benzophenone chromophores intoone molecule should increase the chances for cross-linking a variety of polymer types with differentCAH bond strengths and in different environmentsbecause this allows for more than one plausiblemechanism for crosslinks to form as shown inFigure 3. Irradiation is expected to produce anexcited n–p* state that intersystem crosses to the tri-plet.26One of several deactivation pathwaysincludes hydrogen abstraction of a nearby CAHgroup on a polymer chain. Hydrogen abstractionwill form radicals that can recombine to form cova-lent bonds. Two potential recombination pathwayscan result in crosslinks. First, radical centers on thepolymer chains can recombine with each other. Thisrequires that the photo-generated macroradicals arelocated sufficiently close to each other. Note thatthis pathway may be limited in environments wherechain motion is hindered. Second, the inclusion oftwo benzophenone chromophores supplies an addi-tional crosslinking pathway that circumvents theneed to have two macroradical centers in closeproximity. Recombination of two benzophenoneketyl radicals at the ends of a single molecule of bis-BP with macroradicals results in crosslinks withoutthe need for two interacting polymer radicals. Themain possible side reactions include recombinationof the ketyl radicals to produce pinnacol derivativesthat may or may not act as extended crosslinkbridges and disproportionation products.Figure 2 Structure of photo-active crosslinkers.Figure 3 Two pathways are proposed for crosslinking of polymers by bis-BP. In the first, radicals created on polymerchains by hydrogen abstraction can recombine to form crosslinks. In the second, after bis-BP abstracts hydrogen atomsfrom polymer chains, recombination between a polymer radical and a benzophenone ketyl radical result in a covalentbond. When this happens on both benzophenone chromophores, a crosslink will result.170 CARROLL ET AL.Journal of Applied Polymer Science DOI 10.1002/app
  4. 4. To test the versatility of the photo-crosslinkingreaction in solution we selected poly (butadiene)(PBD) and poly (ethylene oxide) (PEO), two poly-mers containing different physical and chemicalproperties. For example, PEO is hydrophilic andexpected to result in a hydrogel when crosslinked,whereas, PBD is hydrophobic and is not expectedto absorb an appreciable amount of water. Regard-less of the physical and chemical properties, irradi-ation of both polymers in the presence of BP orbis-BP resulted in the precipitation of insolublematerial from deoxygenated solutions. Gels photo-generated from bis-BP are displayed in Figure 4.Irradiation of deoxygenated polymer solutionswithout crosslinker did not result in the formationof gels.A variety of methods have been used to charac-terize crosslinked networks including small angleneutron scattering,27pulsed-field gradient,28,29andsolid-state NMR,30,31IR,32AFM,33,34and rheology35measurements. Swelling measurements provide aconvenient technique for characterizing crosslinks ina variety of polymers that allows for the crosslinkdensity to be calculated based on the ratio of thevolume of the swollen gel to the dry gel.11,36,37Wecompared the crosslink density of PEO gels photo-generated using BP and bis-BP by analyzing theswelling ratios of the two gels using both tolueneand acetonitrile as swelling solvents. These solventswere selected because their solubility parameters,18.2 and 24.3 (MPa)1/2, are slightly above and belowthat of PEO, 20.2 6 2 (MPa)1/2.38In addition, thevolatility of these solvents was low enough such thata stable weight of swollen gel could be obtained.The PEO gels clearly swell in comparison with thedry gel as shown in Figure 5. From the swellingFigure 4 Photo-generated PBD and PEO gels using bis-BP. Gels were also obtained when BP was used as thecrosslinker.PHOTOGENERATION OF GELATINOUS NETWORKS 171Journal of Applied Polymer Science DOI 10.1002/app
  5. 5. ratio the molecular weight between crosslinks, Mc,can be calculated from the following equation:1=ðmMcÞ ¼ ðlnð1 À m2Þ þ m2 þ v1m22Þ=ð/ðm1=32 À m2=2ÞÞ(1)where m is the specific volume of the polymer, m2 isthe volume fraction of polymer, v is the Flory inter-action parameter and / is the molar volume ofsolvent. m2 can be calculated from the swelling ratio,q, according to eq. (2):q ¼ V=Vo ¼ 1=m2 (2)where V is the volume of the wet gel and Vo is thevolume of the dry gel. Mc values and the crosslinkdensity, mx, for BP and bis-BP PEO gels are shown inTable I. The crosslink density was calculated fromeq. (3):mx ¼ 1=ðmMcÞ (3)A higher crosslink density was calculated for thebis-BP PEO gels regardless of the swelling solvent.We conclude therefore that the bis-BP gel is moreheavily crosslinked than the BP gel. This is expectedsince bis-BP has more than one mode of formingcrosslinks. When a BP ketyl radical recombines with apolymer radical, a potential polymer–polymer cross-link is lost. However, when a bis-BP ketyl radicalrecombines with a polymer radical a polymer–poly-mer crosslink can still be formed if the second chro-mophore recombines either with a polymer radical oranother bis-BP ketyl radical attached to a polymer.We also examined the crosslink density using EPRspectroscopy. The line shape of an EPR spectrumrelates to the rotational correlation time of the para-magnetic species.39Hindered molecules rotate moreslowly, making it more difficult to align its magneticmoment with the applied magnetic field. Such aspectrum will typically have unequal peak heightsand broaden in comparison to a sample in an envi-ronment where rotation is less hindered. Nitroxidemolecules are common EPR probes becausethey contain stable radicals. We reasoned that if theFigure 5 Dry and swollen PEO gels photo-generated by irradiation of acetonitrile solutions containing PEO and BP orbis-BP. Gels were soaked in acetonitrile for 12 h. Similar results were obtained using toluene.TABLE IComparison of the Molecular Weight BetweenCrosslinks (Mc) and Cross-Link Density (mx) for PEOGels Photo-Crosslinked by BP and bis-BPCrosslinkerAcetonitrile TolueneMc mx Mc mxBP 8900 6 1500 150 6 20 7000 6 4000 220 6 90bis-BP 3600 6 800 380 6 80 1300 6 200 1000 6 150172 CARROLL ET AL.Journal of Applied Polymer Science DOI 10.1002/app
  6. 6. bis-BP gels are more heavily crosslinked than the BPgel, nitroxides absorbed into the gel should give asignal indicative of slower rotation. We incubatedBP and bis-BP PEO gels overnight in acetonitrile sol-utions containing 4-Oxo-Tempo. After removing thenitroxide supernatant we took EPR spectra of thegels (Fig. 6). Each gel showed the characteristic threeline EPR spectrum exhibited by nitroxide radicals,indicating that nitroxide absorbed into the gel. Thegel photo-generated from BP [Fig. 6(a)] shows amuch more intense signal, indicating that nitroxidemore easily penetrated this gel. The spectrum of thegel photo-generated from bis-BP [Fig. 6(b)] shows anattenuated signal for the peak at the highest field,which is a sign of a longer rotational correlationtime. The peaks for the BP gel are broader; howeverthis can be a result of oxygen penetrating the net-work. We attribute these results to a higher crosslinkdensity in the bis-BP gels since a higher crosslinkdensity is expected to make the gel less permeableand to inhibit the rotational diffusion of moleculesthat are absorbed into the gel. In conjunction withthe swelling studies described above, we concludethat bis-BP is a more efficient crosslinker than BP.CONCLUSIONSWe have shown that both BP and bis-BP are capableof crosslinking polymers in solution. In comparisonwith BP, analysis of the swelling ratios of photo-generated PEO gels as well as EPR measurements ofabsorbed nitroxide probes shows that bis-BP gels aremore highly crosslinked. Although we have focusedon crosslinking traditional macromolecules, weexpect that the methodology is suitable for stabili-zing and networking a variety of systems includingemerging materials based on self-assembly andsupramolecular chemistry.40,41References1. Kim, T.; Chan, K. C.; Crooks, R. M. J Am Chem Soc 1997, 119,189.2. Buchholz, F. L.; Peppas, N. A. Superabsorbent Polymers; ACSSymposium Series 573; American Chemical Society: Washing-ton, DC, 1994.3. Raju, M. P.; Raju, K. M. J Appl Polym Sci 2001, 80, 2635.4. Flory, P. J. Chem Rev 1944, 35, 51.5. Madou, M. J. Fundamentals of Microfabrication, 2nd ed.; CRCPress: New York, 2002.6. Schnabel, W. Polymers and Light Fundamentals and TechnicalApplications; Wiley-VCH: Weinheim, 2007.7. Dai, W. S.; Barbari, T. A. J Membr Sci 1999, 156, 67.8. Vankelecom Ivo, F. J. Chem Rev 2002, 102, 3779.9. Lee, K. Y.; Mooney, D. J. Chem Rev 2001, 101, 1869.10. Uhrich, K. E.; Cannizzaro, S. M.; Langer, R. S.; Shakesheff, K.M. Chem Rev 1999, 99, 3181.11. Flory, P. J. Principles of Polymer Chemistry; Cornell Univer-sity Press: Ithaca, 1953.12. Jones, R. A. L. Soft Condensed Matter; Oxford UniversityPress: New York, 2002.13. Badarau, C.; Wang, Z. Y. Macromolecules 2003, 36, 6959.14. Watanabe, S.; Ichimura, K. J Polym Sci Polym Chem Ed 1982,20, 3261.15. Zheng, Y.; Micic, M.; Mello, S. V.; Mabrouki, M.; Andreo-poulos, F. M.; Konka, V.; Pham, S. M.; Leblanc, R. M. Macro-molecules 2002, 35, 5228.16. Tran Cong, Q.; Nagaki, T.; Nakagawa, T.; Yano, O.; Soen, T.Macromolecules 1989, 22, 2720.17. Nakabayashi, K.; Schwalm, R.; Schnabel, W. Angew Makro-mol Chem 1992, 195, 191.18. Grassie, N.; Weir, N. A. J Appl Polym Sci 1965, 9, 975.19. Wells, R. K.; Royston, A.; Badyal, J. P. S. Macromolecules1994, 27, 7465.20. Toomey, R.; Freidank, D.; Ruehe, J. Macromolecules 2004, 37,882.21. Al Akhrass, S.; Ostaci, R. V.; Grohens, Y.; Drockenmuller, E.;Reiter, G. Langmuir 2008, 24, 1884.22. Cai, S. X.; Glenn, D. J.; Kanskar, M.; Wybourne, M. N.; Keana,J. F. W. Chem Mater 1994, 6, 1822.23. Carroll, G. T.; Sojka, M. E.; Lei, X. G.; Turro, N. J.; Koberstein,J. T. Langmuir 2006, 22, 7748.24. Torikai, A.; Takeuchi, T.; Fueki, K. Polym Photochem 1983, 3,307.25. Jockusch, S.; Turro, N. J.; Mitsukami, Y.; Matsumoto, M.; Iwa-mura, T.; Lindner, T.; Flohr, A.; di Massimo, G. J Appl PolymSci 2009, 111, 2163.26. Turro, N. J. Modern Molecular Photochemistry; University Sci-ence Books: Sausalito, CA, 1991.27. Hild, G. Prog Polym Sci 1998, 23, 1019.28. Yamane, Y.; Ando, I.; Buchholz, F. L.; Reinhardt, A. R.;Schlick, S. Macromolecules 2004, 37, 9841.29. Stejskal, E. O.; Tanner, J. E. J Chem Phys 1965, 42, 288.30. Aluas, M.; Filip, C. Solid State Nucl Magn Reson 2005, 27, 165.Figure 6 EPR spectra of 4-oxo-tempo in photo-generatedgels from (a) BP and (b) bis-BP.PHOTOGENERATION OF GELATINOUS NETWORKS 173Journal of Applied Polymer Science DOI 10.1002/app
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