Polymer Science

Light Directs Monomer Coordination in Catalyst-Free Grignard Photopolymerization



π-Conjugated polymers can serve as active layers in flexible and lightweight electronics, and are conventionally synthesized by transition-metal-mediated polycondensation at elevated temperatures. We recently reported a photopolymerization of electron-deficient heteroaryl Grignard monomers that enables the catalyst-free synthesis of n-type π-conjugated polymers. Herein we provide an experimental and computational investigation of the mechanism of this photopolymerization. Spectroscopic studies performed in situ and after quenching reveal that the propagating species is a radical anion with halide end groups. DFT calculations for model oligomers suggest a Mg-templated SRN1-type coupling, in which Grignard monomer coordination to the radical anion chain avoids the formation of free sp2 radicals and enables C–C bond formation with very low barriers. We find that light plays an unusual role in the reaction, photoexciting the radical anion chain to shift electron density to the termini and thus favor productive monomer binding.


Thumbnail image of Woods CP mechanism MS 5-28.pdf

Supplementary material

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Woods TOC
Thumbnail image of SI-mechanism_5-28.pdf
SI-mechanism 5-28