Cationic ring-opening polymerization of 2-propyl-2-oxazolines: Understanding structural effects on polymerization behavior based on molecular modeling

H. Goossens, S. Catak, M. Glassner, V. De La Rosa, B. Monnery, F. De Proft, V. Van Speybroeck, R. Hoogenboom
ACS Macro Letters
2, 651-654


The surprising difference in the cationic ring-opening polymerization rate of 2-cyclopropyl-2-oxazoline versus 2-n-propyl-2-oxazoline and 2-isopropyl-2-oxazoline was investigated both experimentally and theoretically. The polymerization kinetics of all three oxazolines were experimentally measured in acetonitrile at 140 °C, and the polymerization rate constant (kp) was found to decrease in the order c-PropOx > n-PropOx > i-PropOx. Theoretical free energy calculations confirmed the trend for kp, and a set of DFT-based reactivity descriptors, electrostatics, and frontier molecular orbitals were studied to detect the factors controlling this peculiar behavior. Our results show that the observed reactivity is dictated by electrostatic effects. More in particular, the charge on the nitrogen atom of the monomer, used to measure its nucleophilicity, was the most negative for c-PropOx. Furthermore, the electrophilicity of the cations does not change substantially, and thus, the nucleophilicity of the monomers is the driving factor for kp.