End-Capping Strategies for Triggering End-to-End Depolymerization of Polyglyoxylates

Bo Fan, The University of Western Ontario
John F. Trant, The University of Western Ontario
Elizabeth R. Gillies, The University of Western Ontario


Polymers that undergo end-to-end depolymerization in response to the cleavage of a stimuli-responsive end-cap are promising for diverse applications from drug delivery to responsive coatings and plastics. It is critical that the end-cap is designed to respond to an appropriate stimulus for the application. In the current work, end-caps for triggering the depolymerization of poly(ethyl glyoxylate) (PEtG) were explored. First, a phenylboronate, a disulfide, and an azobenzene were utilized to impart redox-responsive properties to PEtG. Then, methoxy-substituted trityl groups were used to provide sensitivity to mild acid. A multiresponsive platform was also introduced, allowing PEtG to respond to multiple stimuli, either simultaneously or independently. Incorporation of a cross-linkable trialkene end-cap enabled the preparation of networks that could subsequently be depolymerized. Finally, high molar mass PEtG could be depolymerized by mechanical stimulation independent of the end-cap. It is anticipated that the versatility in end-capping strategies and potential depolymerization stimuli will not only expand PEtG’s utility for different applications but also be useful for other classes of end-to-end depolymerizable polymers.