Cycloadditions in modern polymer chemistry

ConspectusSynthetic polymer chemistry has undergone two major developments in the last two decades. About 20 years ago, reversible-deactivation radical polymerization processes started to give access to a wide range of polymeric architectures made from an almost infinite reservoir of functional building blocks. A few years later, the concept of click chemistry revolutionized the way polymer chemists approached synthetic routes. Among the few reactions that could qualify as click, the copper-catalyzed azide-alkyne cycloaddition (CuAAC) initially stood out. Soon, many old and new reactions, including cycloadditions, would further enrich the synthetic macromolecular chemistry toolbox. Whether click or not, cycloadditions are in any case powerful tools for designing polymeric materials in a modular fashion, with a high level of functionality and, sometimes, responsiveness.Here, we wish to describe cycloaddition methodologies that have been reported in the last 10 years in the context of macromolecular engineering, with a focus on those developed in our laboratories. The overarching structure of this Account is based on the three most commonly encountered cycloaddition subclasses in organic and macromolecular chemistry: 1,3-dipolar cycloadditions, (hetero-)Diels?Alder cycloadditions ((H)DAC), and [2+2] cycloadditions. Our goal is to briefly describe the relevant reaction conditions, the advantages and disadvantages, and the realized polymer applications. Furthermore, the orthogonality of most of these reactions is highlighted because it has proven highly beneficial for generating unique, multifunctional polymers in a one-pot reaction.The overview on 1,3-dipolar cycloadditions is mostly centered on the application of CuAAC as the most travelled route, by far. Besides illustrating the capacity of CuAAC to generate complex polymeric architectures, alternative 1,3-dipolar cycloadditions operating without the need for a catalyst are described. In the area of (H)DA cycloadditions, beyond the popular maleimide/furan couple, we present chemistries based on more reactive species, such as cyclopentadienyl or thiocarbonylthio moieties, particularly stressing the reversibility of these systems. In these two greater families, as well as in the last section on [2+2] cycloadditions, we highlight phototriggered chemistries as a powerful tool for spatially and temporally controlled materials synthesis.Clearly, cycloaddition chemistry already has and will continue to transform the field of polymer chemistry in the years to come. Applying this chemistry enables better control over polymer composition, the development of more complicated polymer architectures, the simplification of polymer library production, and the discovery of novel applications for all of these new polymers.