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METAL-FREE ATRP

By Gerald Ondrey |

Atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) is a relatively new process to form carbon-carbon bonds of well-defined polymers. Since its discovery in 1995, ATRP has been performed using transition-metal complexes, such as those of copper. This feature has limited the application of ATRP for making polymers for high-purity applications due to the difficulty in removing traces of Cu from the product polymer, for instance in microelectronics (where Cu is conductive) or medical applications (where Cu can be toxic). Now, researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara (www.ucsb.edu) and The Dow Chemical Company (Midland, Mich.; www.dow.com) have discovered an alternative, metal-free ATRP process, which promises to greatly enhance the applicability of ATRP. The method uses an easily prepared organic photocatalyst (phenothiazine) that is said to be highly reducing in its “excited state”, which can be activated by simply irradiating with light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The reaction takes place at room temperature.
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