Date of Award

Fall 11-21-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Chemistry & Biochemistry

First Advisor

Christopher N. Bowman

Second Advisor

Jeffrey W. Stansbury


The click reaction concept, introduced in 2001, has since spurred the rapid development and reexamination of efficient, high yield reactions which proceed rapidly under mild conditions. Prior to the discovery of facile copper catalysis in 2002, the thermally activated azidealkyne or Huisgen cycloaddition reaction was largely ignored following its discovery in large part due to its slow kinetics, requirement for elevated temperature and limited selectivity. Now, arguably, the most prolific and capable of the click reactions, the copper-catalyzed azide alkyne cycloaddition (CuAAC) reaction is extremely efficient and affords exquisite control of the reaction. The orthogonally and chemoselectivity of this reaction enable its wide utility across varied scientific fields. Despite numerous inherent advantages and widespread use for small molecule synthesis and solution-based polymer chemistry, it has only recently and rarely been utilized to form polymer networks. This work focuses on the synthesis, mechanisms, and unique attributes of the CuAAC reaction for the fabrication of functional polymer networks.

The photo-reduction of a series of copper(II)/amine complexes via ligand metal charge transfer was examined to determine their relative efficiency and selectivity in catalyzing the CuAAC reaction. The aliphatic amine ligands were used as an electron transfer species to reduce Cu(II) upon irradiation with 365 nm light while also functioning as an accelerating agent and as protecting ligands for the Cu(I) that was formed. Among the aliphatic amines studied, tertiary amines such as triethylamine (TEA), tetramethyldiamine (TMDA), N,N,N’,N”,N”-pentamethyldiethylenetriamine (PMDTA), and hexamethylenetetramine (HMTETA) were found to be the most effective. The reaction kinetics were accelerated by increasing the PMDETA : Cu(II) ratio with a ratio of ligand to Cu(II) of 4:1 yielding the maximum conversion in the shortest time. The sequential and orthogonal nature of the photo-CuAAC reaction and a chain-growth acrylate homopolymerization were demonstrated and used to form branched polymer structures.

A bulk, organic soluble initiation system consisting of a Cu(II) salt and a primary amine was also examined in both model reactions and in bulk polymerizations. The system was shown to be highly efficient, leading to nearly complete CuAAC polymerization at ambient temperature. Increasing the ratio of amine to copper from 1 to 4 increases the CuAAC reaction rate significantly from 4 mM/min for 1:1 ratio of Cu(II):hexyalmine to 14mM/min for 1:4 ratio. The concentration dependence of the amine on the reaction rate enables the polymerization rate to be controlled simply by manipulating the hexylamine concentration.

Sequential thiol–acrylate and photo-CuAAC click reactions were utilized to form twostage reactive polymer networks capable of generating wrinkles in a facile manner. The click thiol- Michael addition reaction was utilized to form a cross-linked polymer with residual, reactive alkyne sites that remained tethered throughout the network. The latent, unreacted alkyne sites are subsequently reacted with diazide monomers via a photoinduced Cu(I)-catalyzed alkyne–azide cycloaddition (CuAAC) reaction to increase the cross-link density. Increased cross-linking raised the modulus and glass transition temperature from 1.6 MPa and 2 °C after the thiol–acrylate reaction to 4.4 MPa and 22 °C after the CuAAC reaction, respectively. The double click reaction approach led to micro-wrinkles with well-controlled wavelength and amplitude of 8.50 ± 1.6 and 1.4 μm, respectively, for a polymer with a 1280 μm total film thickness. Additionally, this approach further enables spatial selectivity of wrinkle formation by photo-patterning.

The CuAAC-based polymerization was also used to design smart, responsive porous materials from well-defined CuAAC networks, which possesses a high glass transition temperature (Tg= 115⁰C) due to the formation of the triazole linkages. The toughness, recovery, fixity, and shape memory attributes of this material were examined. The unique recovery behavior of the porous CuAAC material is characterized by its ability to recover plastic deformation upon heating. The tough and stiff nature of the glassy CuAAC polymer networks translates into desirable high compressive strain shape memory foams. The CuAAC foam exhibited excellent shape-memory behavior and was able to recover through each of five successive cycles of 80% compression at ambient temperature, presenting a significant volume change and resistance to fracture. In addition, the glassy CuAAC foam was able to withstand more than 10 cycles of compression to 50% strain and subsequent recovery at ambient temperature, indicative of ductile behavior in the glassy state.