Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Bin Zhao

Committee Members

Jimmy Mays, John Bartmess, Wei He


This dissertation presents the synthesis and studies of polymer brush-supported organocatalysts and asymmetric mixed homopolymer brushes grafted on particles. The brushes were synthesized from initiator-functionalized particles by surface-initiated “living” radical polymerizations.

Polymer brush-supported organocatalysts were designed to combine the advantages of both soluble polymer- (high activity) and crosslinked insoluble polymer-supported catalysts (recyclability). Chapter 1 describes the synthesis of a polymer brush-supported 4-N,N-dialkylaminopyridine (DAAP) catalyst from initiator-functionalized latex particles by surface-initiated nitroxide-mediated radical polymerization (NMRP). The hairy particles efficiently catalyzed the acylation of secondary alcohols and Baylis-Hillman reaction and were recycled  six times with no or negligible decrease in the reaction yield. Chapter 2 presents the synthesis of a thermosensitive polymer brush-supported DAAP by surface-initiated atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) from silica particles with addition of a free initiator. Both hairy particles and the free copolymer formed from the free initiator were used as catalysts for hydrolysis of nitrophenyl acetate at various temperatures. Below the lower critical solution temperature (LCST), the activity of hairy particles was very close to that of the free copolymer. LCST transitions exerted different effects on the reactions catalyzed by hairy particles and the free copolymer.

Chapters 3 and 4 present the studies of the effects of chain length disparity and grafting density on phase morphology of mixed brushes grafted on silica particles. A series of mixed poly(tert-butyl acrylate) (PtBA)/polystyrene (PS) brushes with a fixed PtBA molecular weight and various PS molecular weights were grown from silica particles functionalized with a monochlorosilane-terminated asymmetric difunctional initiator (Y-initiator) by sequential ATRP and NMRP. The total grafting densities of these brushes were 0.6 – 0.7 chains/nm2. The morphology of mixed brushes evolved from isolated PS nanodomains, to short PS cylinders, to a nearly bicontinuous nanostructure, and a two-layered nanostructure with the change of chain length disparity of two homopolymers. To study the grafting density effect, a set of high density asymmetric mixed brushes with total grafting densities of 0.9 – 1.2 chains/nm2 was prepared from triethoxysilane- terminated Y-initiator-functionalized silica particles. The feature sizes of the patterns formed from high density mixed brushes were much smaller than those of lower density mixed brushes.

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