Chem Sci. 2022 May 5;13(20):6008-6018. doi: 10.1039/d2sc01982e. eCollection 2022 May 25.
In Atom Transfer Radical Polymerization (ATRP), Cu0 acts as a supplemental activator and reducing agent (SARA ATRP) by activating alkyl halides and (re)generating the CuI activator through a comproportionation reaction, respectively. Cu0 is also an unexplored, exciting metal that can act as a cathode in electrochemically mediated ATRP (eATRP). Contrary to conventional inert electrodes, a Cu cathode can trigger a dual catalyst regeneration, simultaneously driven by electrochemistry and comproportionation, if a free ligand is present in solution. The dual regeneration explored herein allowed for introducing the concept of pulsed galvanostatic electrolysis (PGE) in eATRP. During a PGE, the process alternates between a period of constant current electrolysis and a period with no applied current in which polymerization continues via SARA ATRP. The introduction of no electrolysis periods without compromising the overall polymerization rate and control is very attractive, if large current densities are needed. Moreover, it permits a drastic charge saving, which is of unique value for a future scale-up, as electrochemistry coupled to SARA ATRP saves energy, and shortens the equipment usage.