Polymers, vol.15, no.5, 2023 (SCI-Expanded)
The development of the modern society imposes a fast-growing demand for new advanced functional polymer materials. To this aim, one of the most plausible current methodologies is the end-group functionalization of existing conventional polymers. If the end functional group is able to polymerize, this method enables the synthesis of a molecularly complex, grafted architecture that opens the access to a wider range of material properties, as well as tailoring the special functions required for certain applications. In this context, the present paper reports on α-thienyl-ω-hydroxyl-end-groups functionalized oligo-(D,L-lactide) (Th-PDLLA), which was designed to combine the polymerizability and photophysical properties of thiophene with the biocompatibility and biodegradability of poly-(D,L-lactide). Th-PDLLA was synthesized using the path of “functional initiator” in the ring-opening polymerization (ROP) of (D,L)-lactide, assisted by stannous 2-ethyl hexanoate (Sn(oct)2). The results of NMR and FT-IR spectroscopic methods confirmed the Th-PDLLA’s expected structure, while the oligomeric nature of Th-PDLLA, as resulting from the calculations based on 1H-NMR data, is supported by the findings from gel permeation chromatography (GPC) and by the results of the thermal analyses. The behavior of Th-PDLLA in different organic solvents, evaluated by UV–vis and fluorescence spectroscopy, but also by dynamic light scattering (DLS), suggested the presence of colloidal supramolecular structures, underlining the nature of the macromonomer Th-PDLLA as an “shape amphiphile”. To test its functionality, the ability of Th-PDLLA to work as a building block for the synthesis of molecular composites was demonstrated by photoinduced oxidative homopolymerization in the presence of diphenyliodonium salt (DPI). The occurrence of a polymerization process, with the formation of a thiophene-conjugated oligomeric main chain grafted with oligomeric PDLLA, was proven, in addition to the visual changes, by the results of GPC, 1H-NMR, FT-IR, UV–vis and fluorescence measurements.