Organic photocatalysts for cleaner polymer synthesis

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Science  27 May 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6289, pp. 1053-1054
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf7465

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The material properties of synthetic polymers can be tuned by changing their chain length and branching and the way in which monomer units repeat. For example, high-density polyethylene, which has little chain branching, is a stiff polymer used for food containers and drain pipes, whereas low-density polyethylene, which has more chain branching, is flexible and used to make grocery bags and bottles for chemicals. Polymers are usually made through thermal polymerization, but recent efforts focusing on green chemistry have led to a push toward using solar energy to drive chemical reactions. On page 1082 of this issue, Theriot et al. (1) report on metal-free visible-light photocatalysts that produce well-defined polymers free of metal contamination through radical polymerization.