Carborane RAFT agents as tunable and functional molecular probes for polymer materials

Marco S. Messina, Christian T. Graefe, Paul Chong, Omar M. Ebrahim, Ramya S. Pathuri, Nicholas A. Bernier, Harrison A. Mills, Arnold L. Rheingold, Renee R. Frontiera, Heather D. Maynard, Alexander M. Spokoyny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Functional handles appended to polymer chain ends are important tools often used as spectroscopic probes for determining polymer structure, affinity labels, and as reactive handles for the conjugation of functional payloads. An easily tunable molecular handle able to carry out multiple functions simultaneously would be of significant use at the polymer, materials, and biology interface. Here, we report the development of carborane-containing chain transfer agents (CTAs, commonly referred to as RAFT agents) which are used in reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization. These carborane RAFT agents establish control over polymerization processes leading to monodisperse (D = 1.03-1.15) polymers made from N-isopropylacrylamide, styrene, 4-chlorostyrene, and methyl acrylate monomers. The tunable nature of the carborane-based scaffold appended on the polymer chain end serves as a general 1H NMR spectroscopic handle, which can be used to elucidate polymer molecular weight via end-group analysis. Isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) measurements show that synthesized carborane terminated polymers exhibit strong binding to β-cyclodextrin with an affinity (Ka) of 9.37 × 104 M-1, thereby demonstrating its potential use as an affinity label. Additionally, we show that the free B-H vertices on the carborane RAFT agents exhibit a Raman vibrational signal at ∼2549 cm-1, a Raman-silent region for biological milieu, indicating its potential utility as an innate Raman active probe. The reported carborane RAFT agents bolster the expanding toolbox of molecular probes and serve as tunable platforms for incorporating additional and complementary handles for tailoring chain-end functionality and facilitating polymer analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1660-1667
Number of pages8
JournalPolymer Chemistry
Issue number13
StatePublished - Apr 7 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
A. M. S. thanks UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry for start-up funds and 3M for a Non-Tenured Faculty Award. M. S. M. thanks the NSF for the Bridge-to-Doctorate (HRD-1400789) and the Predoctoral (GRFP) (DGE-0707424) Fellowships and UCLA for the Christopher S. Foote Fellowship. O. M. E. thanks the Raymond and Dorothy Wilson Fellowship. H. D. M. thanks the NSF (CHE-1507735) for funding. C. T. G. and R. R. F. thank the NSF (CHE-1552849) for funding. P. C. thanks the Gold Family Foundation and the SPE Foundation for funding. The authors would like to thank the UCLA-DOE and Biochemistry Instrumentation Facility for providing access to the ITC instrument and for helpful discussions relating to the data acquisition.


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