Polymeric Photoacids Based on Naphthols—Design Criteria, Photostability, and Light-Mediated Release
The implementation of photoswitches within polymers offers an exciting toolbox in the design of light-responsive materials as irradiation can be controlled both spatially and temporally. Herein, we introduce a range of water-soluble copolymers featuring naphthol-based chromophores as photoacids in the side chain. With that, the resulting materials experience a drastic increase in acidity upon stimulation with UV light and we systematically studied how structure and distance of the photoacid from the copolymer backbone determines polymerizability, photo-response, and photostability. Briefly, we used RAFT (reversible addition–fragmentation chain transfer) polymerization to prepare copolymers consisting of nona(ethylene glycol) methyl ether methacrylate (MEO9MA) as water-soluble comonomer in combination with six different 1-naphthol-based (“N”) monomers. Thereby, we distinguish between methacrylates (NMA, NOeMA), methacrylamides (NMAm, NOeMAm), vinyl naphthol (VN), and post-polymerization modification based on [(1-hydroxynaphthalen-2-amido)ethyl]amine (NOeMAm, NAmeMAm). These P(MEO9MAx-co-“N”y) copolymers typically feature a 4:1 MEO9MA to “N” ratio and molar masses in the range of 10 kg mol−1. After synthesis and characterization by using NMR spectroscopy and size exclusion chromatography (SEC), we investigated how potential photo-cleavage or photo-degradation during irradiation depends on the type and distance of the linker to the copolymeric backbone and whether reversible excited state proton transfer (ESPT) occurs under these conditions. In our opinion, such materials will be strong assets as light-mediated proton sources in nanostructured environments, for example, for the site-specific creation of proton gradients. We therefore exemplarily incorporated NMA into an amphiphilic block copolymer and could demonstrate the light-mediated release of Nile red from micelles formed in water as selective solvent. © 2019 The Authors. Published by Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA.