On the Mechanism of the Inverse Vulcanization of Elemental Sulfur: Structural Characterization of Poly(sulfur- random-(1,3-diisopropenylbenzene))

Jianhua Bao, Kaitlyn P. Martin, Eunkyung Cho, Kyung Seok Kang, Richard S Glass, Veaceslav Coropceanu, Jean Luc Bredas, Wallace O.Neil Parker, Jon T. Njardarson, Jeffrey Pyun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Organosulfur polymers, such as those derived from elemental sulfur, are an important new class of macromolecules that have recently emerged via the inverse vulcanization process. Since the launching of this new field in 2013, the development of new monomers and organopolysulfide materials based on the inverse vulcanization process is now an active area in polymer chemistry. While numerous advances have been made over the last decade concerning this polymerization process, insights into the mechanism of inverse vulcanization and structural characterization of the high-sulfur-content copolymers that are produced remain challenging due to the increasing insolubility of the materials with a higher sulfur content. Furthermore, the high temperatures used in this process can result in side reactions and complex microstructures of the copolymer backbone, complicating detailed characterization. The most widely studied case of inverse vulcanization to date remains the reaction between S8 and 1,3-diisopropenylbenzene (DIB) to form poly(sulfur-random-1,3-diisopropenylbenzene)(poly(S-r-DIB)). Here, to determine the correct microstructure of poly(S-r-DIB), we performed comprehensive structural characterizations of poly(S-r-DIB) using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (solid state and solution) and analysis of sulfurated DIB units using designer S-S cleavage polymer degradation approaches, along with complementary de novo synthesis of the sulfurated DIB fragments. These studies reveal that the previously proposed repeating units for poly(S-r-DIB) were incorrect and that the polymerization mechanism of this process is significantly more complex than initially proposed. Density functional theory calculations were also conducted to provide mechanistic insights into the formation of the derived nonintuitive microstructure of poly(S-r-DIB).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12386-12397
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number22
StatePublished - Jun 7 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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