Surface-Initiated Living Anionic Polymerization of Functional Methacrylates from the Surface of Organic Particles

The controlled functionalization of surfaces is of utmost importance for many applications. Surface-initiated living anionic polymerization (SI-LAP) offers a well-adjustable, uniform functionalization without the necessity of metal catalysts for polymerization. However, this technique is rarely studied for functional monomers, such as different methacrylates. The present study investigated the SI-LAP of different methacrylate monomers on porous polystyrene microparticles. Starting with methyl methacrylate (MMA) as the model monomer, the reaction kinetics and the living character of the polymerization at the particles’ surface are discussed. The reaction conditions were transferred to more functional methacrylates, for example, 2-(trimethylsilyloxy)ethyl methacrylate (HEMA-TMS). The functionalization in the particle’s interior enables the preparation of fluorescent particles by applying post-modification protocols of the poly(hydroxyethyl methacrylate) (PHEMA) moieties with fluorescein isothiocyanate. Moreover, ferrocenylmethyl methacrylate (FMMA) polymerization leads to stimuli-responsive particles with an adjustable functional polymer content of 7 to 51%. Electrochemical studies for the latter polymer poly(ferrocenylmethyl methacrylate) (PFMMA) on the surface offered remarkable long-term stability upon addressing the redox responsiveness of the ferrocene moieties over 1000 cycles using electrochemistry. The synthesis strategy enables access to various applications, such as battery anodes, redox-flow batteries, or ion sorbents.