The preparation of functional polymers can be achieved in two main ways, either by the preparation of the functional polymer by the polymerisation of the appropriate monomer (Approach 1) or the modification of an existing polymer (Approach 2).

Scheme 1

We are interested in the application of carbenes for polymer surface modification; these highly reactive intermediates are capable of inserting into a wide range of bonds, notably C-H, O-H, N-H and of course alkenes, to form very stable bonds. We have shown that certain readily available carbenes can be applied to the dyeing of natural and synthetic polymers, and can be used to impart a range of properties into otherwise inert material.

This project aims to develop the application of carbenes as reactive intermediates for the modification of various substrates, e.g. natural and synthetic fibres, and polymers. The aim is to identify a conveniently prepared linking agent, which generates a carbene under thermolytic or photolytic conditions, thereby allowing the incorporation of functionality (e.g. chelating, chiral or fluorescent groups) into otherwise inert substrates.

 

Scheme 2

Some of the results which we have achieved are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Polymers modified according to the protocol shown in Scheme 2, Stage 2(a). Polymers (a) polypropylene sheet; (b) alumina; (c) nylon 6-10 beads; (d) polyethyleneterephtalate pellets; (e) cotton wool; (f) cotton; (g) Kevlar; (h) polystyrene XAD-4; (i) polyethyleneterephtalate film.