Statistical Copolymerization of Epoxides and Lactones to High Molecular Weight

Malgorzata Chwatko, Nathaniel A. Lynd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Copolymerization provides a modular strategy for compositional control of structure-property relationships in polymeric materials. However, this versatility is typically limited to structurally homologous comonomers. To further expand the scope of copolymerization in heterocyclic systems, we explored the copolymerization of structurally distinct lactones and epoxides utilizing the classical Vandenberg catalyst. Copolymerizations were conducted between monomer pairs selected from among two common lactones (dl-lactide, ε-caprolactone) and four epoxides (epichlorohydrin, butylene oxide, propylene oxide, ethylene oxide). The resultant materials had molecular weights of up to 16 Mg/mol. Reactivity ratios were determined for the copolymerization of dl-lactide and propylene oxide, which were consistent with a gradient copolymer with propylene oxide (PO) being the preferred monomer: rPO = 2.81 ± 0.27 and rLA = 0.36 ± 0.02. The copolymerization between ε-caprolactone and propylene oxide was also monitored by 1H NMR spectroscopy. A greater preference for propylene oxide was evident, but incomplete consumption of the ε-caprolactone under these reaction conditions complicated determination of reactivity ratios. Meyer-Lowry analysis of the time-dependent compositional data provided estimates of rPO = 2.17 ± 0.04 and rCL = 0.08 ± 0.01. Distinct ester-ether dyad signals were observed in the 1H NMR spectra of the copolymers, and thermal properties of the copolymers were distinct from those of the respective pure homopolymers. The expected hydrolytic degradability of poly[(dl-lactide)-co-(ethylene oxide)] was demonstrated under neutral and basic conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2714-2723
Number of pages10
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 11 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Chemical Society.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Organic Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Materials Chemistry


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