Our group is currently exploring photo-flow techniques for upscaling polymerisation processes, as well as the synthesis and modification of complex macromolecules. Continuous flow processing is well suited for the facile upscaling of polymerisation processes, particularly, the use of thin tubing in photo-flow processes circumvents problems that occur in batch photopolymerisation processes. Flow processing also allows for more precise polymer synthesis, with higher yields and less side-product formation.
Using the PET-RAFT polymerisation technique, and other photopolymerisation systems, in flow reactors allows the reaction rate to be mediated by alteration of the pump flow rates, chemical concentrations, residence times of the reactant streams, and the intensity and wavelength of the light source. Alteration of these parameters throughout the polymerisation process allows complexity to be easily incorporated during synthesis, and complex products to be easily synthesised in one-pass. Using this methodology we have developed novel protocols for the production of polymer mixtures with well-defined and tailorable molecular weight distributions (MWDs). Since the properties of polymer materials are dictated by their primary structure and MWD, production of materials with controlled MWDs are critical for future materials production.