Controlled radical polymerization (CRP) allows for the design and synthesis of functional polymers with tailored composition and unique macromolecular architectures. Synthetic methods that are readily available for controlled radical polymerization include nitroxide-mediated polymerization, reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer polymerization, and atom transfer radical polymerization. N-Vinyl monomers that are typically amenable to free radical methods are often difficult to synthesize in a controlled manner to high molecular weight due to the lack of resonance stabilization of the propagating radical. However, recent advances in the field of CRP have resulted in successful controlled polymerization of various N-vinyl heterocyclic monomers including N-vinylcarbazole, N-vinylpyrrolidone, N-vinylphthalimide, and N-vinylindole. The incorporation of the imidazole ring into homopolymers and copolymers using conventional free radical polymerization of N-vinylimidazole monomer is particularly widespread and advantageous due to facile functionalization, high thermal stability, and the relevance of the imidazole ring to many biomacromolecules. Copolymers prepared with methyl methacrylate displayed random incorporation according to differential scanning calorimetry and amorphous morphologies according to X-ray scattering. Imidazole- and imidazolium-containing monomers have shown recent success for CRP; however, the controlled polymerization of N-vinylimidazole has remained relatively unexplored. Future efforts focus on the development of tailored imidazole-containing copolymers with well-defined architectures for emerging biomedical, electronic and membrane applications.
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