Photoinduced Strain-Assisted Synthesis of a Stiff-Stilbene Polymer by Ring-Opening Metathesis Polymerization

Abstract Developing a novel strategy to synthesize photoresponsive polymers is of significance owing to their potential applications. We report a photoinduced strain-assisted synthesis of main-chain stiff-stilbene polymers by using ring-opening metathesis polymerization (ROMP), activating a macrocyclic π-bond connected to a stiff-stilbene photoswitch through a linker. Since the linker acts as an external constraint, the photoisomerization to the E-form leads to the stiff-stilbene being strained and thus reactive to ROMP. The photoisomerization of Z-form to E-form was investigated using time-dependent NMR studies and UV/Vis spectroscopy. The DFT calculation showed that the E-form was less stable due to a lack of planarity. By the internal strain developed due to the linker constraint through photoisomerization, the E-form underwent ROMP by a second generation Grubbs catalyst. In contrast, Z-form did not undergo polymerization under similar conditions. The MALDI-TOF spectrum of E-form after polymerization showed the presence of oligomers of >5.2 kDa.