Cyclic Carbonates from Sugars and Carbon Dioxide: Synthesis, Polymerisation and Biomedical Applications

  • Georgina Gregory

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The biodegradability and when functionalised biocompatibility of aliphatic polycarbonates (APCs) makes them an attractive class of materials for biomedical applications such as tissue engineering scaffolds and drug-delivery carriers. One route to accessing a wide-range of well-defined and functional APCs is the controlled ring-opening polymerisation (ROP) of cyclic carbonates. In turn, these would ideally be prepared by the direct coupling of CO2 with diols to give water as the only by-product. In this way, the combination of CO2 and sugar-derived diols draws upon two natural renewable building blocks for the construction of polycarbonates that are anticipated to show good biocompatibility properties. Chapter 2 develops a simple and mild alternative to the traditional use of phosgene derivatives for the synthesis of six-membered cyclic carbonates from 1,3-diols and CO2. DFT calculations highlighted the need to lower both the CO2-insertion and ring-closing kinetic barriers to cyclic carbonate formation. Organic superbase, 1,8- diazabicyclo[5.4.0]undec-7-ene (DBU) enabled the formation of carbonate species at 1 atm CO2 pressure whereas, the introduction of a leaving group strategy lowered the cyclisation barrier. Mechanistic considerations suggested a kinetic preference for ring- closing via a nucleophilic addition-elimination pathway rather than a SN2-like intramolecular cyclisation. Chapter 3 applies the procedure with CO2 to the preparation of a novel monomer from natural sugar, ᴅ-mannose. ROP was carried out via an organocatalytic approach and a preference for head-tail linkages in the polycarbonate backbone indicated by NMR spectroscopy and supported by DFT calculations. Chapter 4 utilises CO2 to invert the natural stereochemistry of sugars and create a thymidine-based monomer. The thermodynamic parameters of the ROP with 1,5,7-triazabicyclo[4.4.0]dec-5-ene (TBD) catalyst are determined and the properties of the polycarbonates investigated to include preliminary cell attachment studies. Finally, chapter 5 details the synthesis of cyclic carbonates from 2- deoxy-ᴅ-ribose and the investigation into the different ROP behaviour of the α- and β- anomers. The ability to tune the polymer properties through copolymerisation with trimethylene carbonate (TMC) is also discussed.
Date of Award27 Jun 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SponsorsEngineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
SupervisorAntoine Buchard (Supervisor), Ram Sharma (Supervisor) & Matthew Davidson (Supervisor)


  • cyclic carbonates
  • ring-opening polymerisation
  • thymidine
  • sugars
  • CO2
  • biomedical applications
  • Tissue engineering scaffolds

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