How to better control polymer chemistry

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Science  29 Mar 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6434, pp. 1394
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw9863

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Polymer chemists have long endeavored to gain control over the precise chemical structures of the polymers they synthesize. Polymers can have variable lengths and length distributions, chemically programmed units at each chain end, and different spatial arrangements of the pendant side chain atoms—a characteristic known as stereochemistry. Controlled polymerization techniques developed in the past three decades have provided excellent control over polymer length and chain end functionality (1). However, examples of stereocontrolled polymerizations are rare, and few methods have been developed to a sufficiently advanced level for commercialization. On page 1439 of this issue, Teator and Leibfarth show that an organocatalyst can be used to exact exquisite control over the stereochemistry and microstructure of several different poly(vinyl ethers) (PVEs) (2).