A simple method for determining protic end-groups of synthetic polymers by 1H NMR spectroscopy

Almar Postma, Thomas P. Davis, A. Richard Donovan, Guoxin Li, Graeme Moad, Roger Mulder, Michael S. O'Shea

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A simple method for the determination of protic end-groups (-XH) in synthetic polymers involves in situ derivatization with trichloroacetyl isocyanate (TAI) in an NMR tube and observation of the imidic hydrogens of the derivatized products [-X-C(O)-NH-COCCl3] by 1H NMR spectroscopy. In this paper, we report that the method is effective for the quantitative determination of hydroxy, primary amino and carboxy end-groups of polymers with M̄n<50,000gmol-1. It may also be applied to detect chain ends in higher molecular weight polymers. The signals for the imidic (and, in the case of amines, amidic) hydrogens appear in a region (δ 7.5-11) that is clear of other signals in the case of most aliphatic polymers and many aromatic polymers such as polystyrene and poly(ethylene terephthalate). The method has been applied in the characterization of polymers formed by conventional and living radical polymerization (RAFT, ATRP, NMP), to end functional poly(ethylene oxide) and to polyethylene-block-poly(ethylene oxide). The method appears less effective in the case of sulfanyl end-groups. The chemical shift of the imidic hydrogen shows remarkable sensitivity to the microenvironment of chain end. Thus, the imidic hydrogens of TAI derivatized polyethylene-block-poly(ethylene oxide) [PE-(EO)mOC(O)NHC(O)CCl 3] are at least partially resolved for m=0, 1, 2, 3 and ≧4 in the 400 MHz 1H NMR spectrum. It is also sensitive to the chain end tacticity of, for example, amino-end-functional polystyrenes and thus to the relative configuration of groups removed from the chain-end by two or more monomer units. TAI derivatization also facilitates analysis of amine functional polymers by gel permeation chromatography (GPC) which is often rendered difficult by specific interactions between the amine group and the GPC column packing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1899-1911
Number of pages13
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Polymer end-group determination
  • Trichloroacetyl isocyanate

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