Carbodiimide Ring-Opening Metathesis Polymerization

Controlled incorporation of nitrogen into macromolecular skeletons is a long-standing challenge whose resolution would enable the preparation of soft materials with the scalability of man-made plastics and functionality of Nature’s proteins. Nylons and polyurethanes notwithstanding, nitrogen-rich polymer backbones remain scarce, and their synthesis typically lacks precision. Here we report a strategy that begins to address this limitation founded on a mechanistic discovery: ring-opening metathesis polymerization (ROMP) of carbodiimides followed by carbodiimide derivatization. An iridium guanidinate complex was found to initiate and catalyze ROMP of N-aryl and N-alkyl cyclic carbodiimides. Nucleophilic addition to the resulting polycarbodiimides enabled the preparation of polyureas, polythioureas, and polyguanidinates with varied architectures. This work advances the foundations of metathesis chemistry and opens the door to systematic investigations of structure-folding-property relationships in nitrogen-rich macromolecules.

Carbodiimide Ring-Opening Metathesis Polymerization J. Drake Johnson, Samuel W. Kaplan, Jozsef Toth, Zian Wang, Mitchell Maw, Sergei S. Sheiko, and Aleksandr V. Zhukhovitskiy ACS Central Science Article ASAP DOI: 10.1021/acscentsci.3c00032