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  1. Simultaneous ring-opening copolymerization is a powerful strategy for the synthesis of highly functional copolymers from different types of cyclic monomers. Although copolymers are essential to the plastics industry, environmental concerns associated with current fossil-fuel-based synthetic polymers have led to an increasing interest in the use of renewable feedstock for polymer synthesis. Herein, we report a scalable synthetic platform to afford unique polysaccharides with different pendant functional groups from biomass-derived levoglucosan and ε-caprolactone via cationic ring-opening copolymerization (cROCOP). Biocompatible and recyclable bismuth triflate was identified as the optimal catalyst for cROCOP of levoglucosan. Copolymers from tribenzyl levoglucosan and ε-caprolactone, as well as from tribenzyl and triallyl levoglucosan, were successfully synthesized. The tribenzyl levoglucosan monomer composition ranged from 16% to 64% in the copolymers with ε-caprolactone and 22% to 79% in the copolymers with triallyl levoglucosan. The allylic levoglucosan copolymer can be utilized as a renewably derived scaffold to modify copolymer properties and create other polymer architectures via postpolymerization modification. Monomer reactivity ratios were determined to investigate the copolymer microstructure, indicating that levoglucosan-based copolymers have a gradient architecture. Additionally, we demonstrated that the copolymer glass transition temperature (Tg, ranging from −44.3 to 33.8 °C), thermal stability, and crystallization behavior could be tuned based on the copolymer composition. Overall, this work underscores the utility of levoglucosan as a bioderived feedstock for the development of functional sugar-based copolymers with applications ranging from sustainable materials to biomaterials. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  2. We present the synthesis, characterization and radical ring-opening polymerization (rROP) capabilities of thionoisochromanone (TIC), a fungi-derivable thionolactone. TIC is the first reported six-membered thionolactone to readily homopolymerize under free radical conditions without the presence of a dormant comonomer or repeated initiation. Even more, the resulting polymer is fully degradable under mild, basic conditions. Computations providing molecular-level insights into the mechanistic and energetic details of polymerization identified a unique S , S , O -orthoester intermediate that leads to a sustained chain-end. This sustained chain-end allowed for the synthesis of a block copolymer of TIC and styrene under entirely free radical conditions without explicit radical control methods such as reversible addition–fragmentation chain transfer polymerization (RAFT). We also report the statistical copolymerization of ring-retained TIC and styrene, confirmed by elemental analysis and energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX). Computations into the energetic details of copolymerization indicate kinetic drivers for ring-retaining behavior. This work provides the first example of a sustainable feedstock for rROP and provides the field with the first six-membered monomer susceptible to rROP, expanding the monomer scope to aid our fundamental understanding of thionolactone rROP behavior. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 31, 2024
  3. Levoglucosan is a renewable chemical obtained in high yields from pyrolysis of cellulosic biomass, which offers rich functionality for synthetic modification and crosslinking. Here, we report the facile and scalable synthesis of a family of biobased networks from triallyl levoglucosan and multifunctional thiols via UV-initiated thiol–ene click chemistry. The multifunctional thiols utilized in this study can also be sourced from renewable feedstocks, leading to overall high bio-based content of the synthesized levoglucosan networks. The thermomechanical and hydrolytic degradation properties of the resultant networks are tailored based on the type and stoichiometric ratio of thiol crosslinker employed. The Young's modulus and glass transition temperature of levoglucosan-based networks are tunable over the wide ranges of 3.3 MPa to 14.5 MPa and −19.4 °C to 6.9 °C, respectively. The levoglucosan-based thermosets exhibit excellent thermal stability with Td,10% > 305 °C for all networks. The suitability of these resin formulations for extrusion-based 3D printing was illustrated using a UV-assisted direct ink write (DIW) system creating 3D printed parts with excellent fidelity. Hydrolytic degradation of these 3D printed parts via ester hydrolysis demonstrated that levoglucosan-based resins are excellent candidates for sustainable rapid prototyping and mass production applications. Overall, this work displays the utility of levoglucosan as a renewable platform chemical that enables access to tailored thermosets important in applications ranging from 3D printing to biomaterials. 
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  4. We report the facile synthesis and characterization of 1,6-α linked functional stereoregular polysaccharides from biomass-derived levoglucosan via cationic ring-opening polymerization (cROP). Levoglucosan is a bicyclic acetal with rich hydroxyl functionality, which can be synthetically modified to install a variety of pendant groups for tailored properties. We have employed biocompatible and recyclable metal triflate catalysts – scandium and bismuth triflate – for green cROP of levoglucosan derivatives, even at very low catalyst loadings of 0.5 mol%. Combined experimental and computational studies provided key kinetic, thermodynamic, and mechanistic insights into the cROP of these derivatives with metal triflates. Computational studies reveal that ring-opening of levoglucosan derivatives is preferred at the 1,6 anhydro linkage and cROP proceeds in a regio- and stereo-specific manner to form 1,6-α glycosidic linkages. DFT calculations also show that biocompatible metal triflates efficiently coordinate with levoglucosan derivatives as compared to the highly toxic PF 5 used previously. Post-polymerization modification of levoglucosan-based polysaccharides is readily performed via UV-initiated thiol–ene click reactions. The reported levoglucosan based polymers exhibit good thermal stability ( T d > 250 °C) and a wide glass transition temperature ( T g ) window (<−150 °C to 32 °C) that is accessible with thioglycerol and lauryl mercaptan pendant groups. This work demonstrates the utility of levoglucosan as a renewably-derived scaffold, enabling facile access to tailored polysaccharides that could be important in many applications ranging from sustainable materials to biologically active polymers. 
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  5. We report here the synthesis and polymerization of a novel disubstituted valerolactone, β-acetoxy-δ-methylvalerolactone, derived from the renewable feedstock triacetic acid lactone (TAL). The bulk polymerization proceeds to 45% equilibrium monomer conversion at room temperature using diphenyl phosphate as the organic catalyst. The resultant amorphous material displays a glass transition temperature of 25 °C. The ring opening polymerization (ROP) behavior of the disubstituted valerolactone was examined, and the enthalpy () and entropy *() of polymerization were calculated to be −25 ± 2 kJ mol −1 and −81 ± 5 mol −1 K −1 , respectively. The polymerization kinetics were also measured and compared to those of other substituted valerolactones reported in the literature. This report is the first to demonstrate the successful ROP of a disubstituted valerolactone as well as the first to establish the ROP of a derivative of TAL. 
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