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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2024
  2. Since its inception, atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) has seen continuous evolution in terms of the design of the catalyst and reaction conditions; today, it is one of the most useful techniques to prepare well-defined polymers as well as one of the most notable examples of catalysis in polymer chemistry. This Perspective highlights fundamental advances in the design of ATRP reactions and catalysts, focusing on the crucial role that mechanistic studies play in understanding, rationalizing, and predicting polymerization outcomes. A critical summary of traditional ATRP systems is provided first; we then focus on the most recent developments to improve catalyst selectivity, control polymerizations via external stimuli, and employ new photochemical or dual catalytic systems with an outlook to future research directions and open challenges. 
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  3. Efficient transfer of halogen atoms is essential for controlling the growth of polymers in atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP). The nature of halogens may influence the efficiency of the halogen atom transfer during the activation and deactivation processes. The effect of halogens can be associated with the C–X bond dissociation energy and the affinity of the halogens/halides to the transition metal catalyst. In this paper, we study the effect of halogens (Br vs. Cl) and reaction media in iron-catalyzed ATRP in the presence of halide anions as ligands. In Br-based initiating systems, polymerization of methacrylate monomers was well-controlled whereas Cl-based initiating systems provided limited control over the polymerization. The high affinity of the Cl atom to the iron catalyst renders it less efficient for fast deactivation of growing chains, resulting in polymers with molecular weights higher than predetermined by Δ[M]/[RX] o and with high dispersities. Conversely, Br can be exchanged with higher efficiency and hence provided good control over polymerization. Decreasing the polarity of the reaction medium improved the polymerization control. Polymerizations using ppm levels of the iron catalyst in acetonitrile (a more polar solvent) yielded polymers with larger dispersity values due to the slow rate of deactivation as opposed to the less polar solvent anisole, which afforded well-controlled polymers with dispersity <1.2. 
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  4. Transition metal catalysts play a prominent role in modern organic and polymer chemistry, enabling many transformations of academic and industrial significance. However, the use of organometallic catalysts often requires the removal of their residues from reaction products, which is particularly important in the pharmaceutical industry. Therefore, the development of efficient and economical methods for the removal of metal contamination is of critical importance. Herein, we demonstrate that commercially available 1,4-bis(3-isocyanopropyl)piperazine can be used as a highly efficient quenching agent ( QA ) and copper scavenger in Cu/TEMPO alcohol aerobic oxidation (Stahl oxidation) and atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP). The addition of QA immediately terminates Cu-mediated reactions under various conditions, forming a copper complex that can be easily separated from both small molecules and macromolecules. The purification protocol for aldehydes is based on the addition of a small amount of silica gel followed by QA and filtration. The use of QA@SiO2 synthesized in situ results in products with Cu content usually below 5 ppm. Purification of polymers involves only the addition of QA in THF followed by filtration, leading to polymers with very low Cu content, even after ATRP with high catalyst loading. Furthermore, the addition of QA completely prevents oxidative alkyne–alkyne (Glaser) coupling. Although isocyanide QA shows moderate toxicity, it can be easily converted into a non-toxic compound by acid hydrolysis. 
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  5. Temporal control in atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) relies on modulating the oxidation state of a copper catalyst, as polymer chains are activated by L/Cu I and deactivated by L/Cu II . (Re)generation of L/Cu I activator has been achieved by applying a multitude of external stimuli. However, switching the Cu catalyst off by oxidizing to L/Cu II through external chemical stimuli has not yet been investigated. A redox switchable ATRP was developed in which an oxidizing agent was used to oxidize L/Cu I activator to L/Cu II , thus halting the polymerization. A ferrocenium salt or oxygen were used to switch off the Cu catalyst, whereas ascorbic acid was used to switch the catalyst on by (re)generating L/Cu I . The redox switches efficiently modulated the oxidation state of the catalyst without sacrificing control over polymerization. 
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  6. This work explores the concept of structurally tailored and engineered macromolecular (STEM) networks by proposing a novel metal-free approach to prepare the networks. STEM networks are composed of polymer networks with latent initiator sites affording post-synthesis modification. The proposed approach relies on selectively activating the fragmentation of trithiocarbonate RAFT agent by relying on visible light RAFT iniferter photolysis coupled with RAFT addition–fragmentation process. The two-step synthesis explored in this work generates networks that are compositionally and mechanically differentiated than their pristine network. In addition, by careful selection of crosslinkers, conventional poly(ethylene glycol) dimethacrylate ( M n = 750) or trithiocarbonate dimethacrylate crosslinker (bis[(2-propionate)ethyl methacrylate] trithiocarbonate (bisPEMAT)), and varying concentrations of RAFT inimer (2-(2-( n -butyltrithiocarbonate)-propionate)ethyl methacrylate (BTPEMA)), three different types of primary (STEM-0) poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) networks were generated under green light irradiation. These networks were then modified with methyl acrylate (MA) or N , N -dimethylacrylamide (DMA), under blue light irradiation to yield STEM-1 gels that are either stiffer or softer with different responses to polarity (hydrophilicity/hydrophobicity). 
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