Electrochemical Atom Transfer Radical Polymerization in Miniemulsion with a Dual Catalytic System

An electrochemical approach was used to control atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) of <i>n</i>-butyl acrylate (BA) in miniemulsion. Electropolymerization required a dual catalytic system, composed of an aqueous phase catalyst and an organic phase catalyst. This allowed shuttling the electrochemical stimulus from the working electrode (WE) to the continuous aqueous phase and to the dispersed monomer droplets. As aqueous phase catalysts, the hydrophilic Cu complexes with the ligands <i>N</i>,<i>N</i>-bis­(2-pyridyl­methyl)-2-hydroxy­ethylamine (BPMEA), 2,2′-bipyridine (bpy), and tris­(2-pyridyl­methyl)­amine (TPMA) were tested. As organic phase catalysts, the hydrophobic complexes with the ligands bis­(2-pyridylmethyl)­octadecylamine (BPMODA) and bis­[2-(4-methoxy-3,5-dimethyl)­pyridylmethyl]­octadecylamine (BPMODA*) were evaluated. Highest rates and best control of BA electropolymerization were obtained with the water-soluble Cu/BPMEA used in combination with the oil-soluble Cu/BPMODA*. The polymerization rate could be further enhanced by changing the potential applied at the WE. Differently from traditional ATRP systems, reactivity of the dual catalytic system did not depend on the redox potential of the catalysts but instead depended on the hydrophobicity and partition coefficient of the aqueous phase catalyst.