Light Directs Monomer Coordination in Catalyst-Free Grignard Photopolymerization

Eliot F. Woods, Alexandra J. Berl, Leanna P. Kantt, Christopher T. Eckdahl, Michael R. Wasielewski, Brandon E. Haines*, Julia A. Kalow*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


π-Conjugated polymers can serve as active layers in flexible and lightweight electronics and are conventionally synthesized by transition-metal-mediated polycondensation at elevated temperatures. We recently reported a photopolymerization of electron-deficient heteroaryl Grignard monomers that enables the catalyst-free synthesis of n-type π-conjugated polymers. Herein, we describe an experimental and computational investigation into the mechanism of this photopolymerization. Spectroscopic studies performed in situ and after quenching reveal that the propagating chain is a radical anion with halide end groups. DFT calculations for model oligomers suggest a Mg-templated SRN1-type coupling, in which Grignard monomer coordination to the radical anion chain avoids the formation of free sp2 radicals and allows C-C bond formation with very low barriers. We find that light plays an unusual role in the reaction, photoexciting the radical anion chain to shift electron density to the termini and thus enabling productive monomer binding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18755-18765
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number44
StatePublished - Nov 10 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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