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Polar Polymerization catalysis
As world-wide competition for oil becomes ever more intense and concern grows about our productio of indestructible waste there has been increasing interest in biodegradable polymers which can be prepared for renewable resources. A number of cyclic esters – lactide, caprolactone etc. – can be prepared from crops such as maize. We are using some of the alkoxides described above, as well as some very simple zirconocene aryloxides, to explore the individual steps involved in lactide polymerization. Paradoxically, a key virtue of a relatively inefficient catalyst is the possibility of observing individual steps in the polymerization process. We are using the tools of physical organic chemistry to look at the rates of the insertion step as a function of the Hammett parameter of the aryloxide and comparing this with the rates of propagation and chain transfer.
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