Metal-free approaches in polymerization catalysis

Besides polymers obtained by radical polymerization, most of industrial polymers are produced following a metal-based approach. As a consequence, these polymers are often contaminated with more or less toxic metal residue, thus limiting some applications in biomedicine, electronic or food industry.Besides polymers obtained by radical polymerization, most of industrial polymers are produced following a metal-based approach. As a consequence, these polymers are often contaminated with more or less toxic metal residue, thus limiting some applications in biomedicine, electronic or food industry.

To overcome these drawbacks, new metal-free approaches for polymer synthesis are developed in LCPO. Besides being an alternative route for polymer synthesis, metal-free synthesis of polymer may also afford new monomer activation modes, while affording better control of the polymer physico-chemical properties.

We have developed several approaches based on organocatalysis  with small organic molecules (Lewis bases: N-Heterocyclic Carbene (NHC), phosphine, guanidine…; Lewis acids; ambiphilic molecules) for the metal-free synthesis of polymers.

We are also strongly involved in the bio-inspired modification and synthesis of polymers as well as in the development of enzymatic catalysis.

These new class of catalysts allow us to polymerize a variety of monomers including polar (meth)acrylate derivatives, cyclic esters, cyclic ethers but also non-polar monomers such as isoprene.

Better handling and recycling of these catalysts are expected from the development of masked catalysts and/or polymeric-supported versions that can in-situ deliver the active form.

Notably, polymeric-supported NHCs (poly(NHC)) can easily be prepared from their corresponding imidazolium-based poly(IonicLiquids) (PILs).