Semiconductor Quantum Dots Are Efficient and Recyclable Photocatalysts for Aqueous PET-RAFT Polymerization

Kevin P. McClelland, Tristan D. Clemons, Samuel I. Stupp, Emily A. Weiss*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


This Letter describes the use of CdSe quantum dots (QDs) as photocatalysts for photoinduced electron transfer reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (PET-RAFT) polymerization of a series of aqueous acrylamides and acrylates. The high colloidal solubility and photostability of these QDs allowed polymerization to occur with high efficiency (>90% conversion in 2.5 h), low dispersity (PDI < 1.1), and ultralow catalyst loading (<0.5 ppm). The use of protein concentrators enabled the removal of the photocatalyst from the polymer and monomer with tolerable metal contamination (8.41 ug/g). These isolated QDs could be recycled for four separate polymerizations without a significant decrease in efficiency. By changing the pore size of the protein concentrators, the QDs and polymer could be separated from the remaining monomer, allowing for the synthesis of block copolymers using a single batch of QDs with minimal purification steps and demonstrating the fidelity of chain ends.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-13
Number of pages7
JournalACS Macro Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 21 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Organic Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Materials Chemistry


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