Light-Mediated Thiol–Ene Polymerization in Miniemulsion: A Fast Route to Semicrystalline Polysulfide Nanoparticles

Historically, the synthesis of aqueous polymer dispersions has focused on radical chain-growth polymerization of low-cost acrylate or styrene emulsions. Herein, we demonstrate the potential of UV-initiated thiol–ene step-growth radical polymerization, departing from a nontransparent difunctional monomer miniemulsion based on ethylene glycol dithiol and diallyl adipate. Performed without solvent and at ambient conditions, the photopolymerization process is energy-effective, environmentally friendly, and ultrafast, leading to full monomer consumption in 2 s, upon irradiating a miniemulsion contained in a 1 mm thick quartz cell microreactor. The resultant linear poly­(thioether ester) particles have an average diameter of 130 nm. After water evaporation, they yield a clear elastomeric film combining chemical resistance and high degree of crystallinity (55%).