The occurrence of intramolecular transfer to polymer in the radical polymerization of acrylic monomers has been extensively documented in the literature. Whilst it has been largely assumed that intramolecular transfer to polymer leads to short chain branches, there has been some speculation over whether the mid-chain radical can migrate. Herein, by the matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time of flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry (MS) of poly(n-butyl acrylate) synthesized by solution polymerization under a range of conditions, it is shown that this mid-chain radical migration does occur in the radical polymerization of acrylates conducted at high temperatures, as is evident from the shape of the molecular weight distribution. Using a mathematical model, an initial approximation of the rate at which migration occurs is made and the distribution of branching lengths formed in this scenario is explored. It is shown that the polymerizations carried out under a low monomer concentration and at high temperatures are particularly prone to radical migration reactions, which may affect the rheological properties of the polymer.
Ballard, N., Veloso, A., & Asua, J. M. (2018). Mid-chain radical migration in the radical polymerization of n-butyl acrylate. Polymers, 10(7). https://doi.org/10.3390/polym10070765