Ultrarapid cerium(III)–NHC catalysts for high molar mass cyclic polylactide

Ryan W. F. Kerr, Paul Ewing, Sumesh K. Raman, Andrew D. Smith, Charlotte K. Williams, Polly L. Arnold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Cyclic polyesters could improve the properties of degradable plastics, but routes to them that provide a product with faster rates, higher molar mass, and greater selectivity for cyclic vs linear polymer are needed. Here, homogeneous Ce(III)–N-heterocyclic carbene (NHC) catalysts show outstanding activities (turn-over-frequency (TOF) > 864 000 h–1), excellent control, and selectivity for cyclic polylactide (PLA) topology (>95%), yielding high molar mass PLA (60 < Mn < 250 kg mol–1). They efficiently produce cyclic PLA from rac-lactide or l-lactide and aliphatic cyclic polyesters from ε-caprolactone or β-butyrolactone. The enhanced performances are only achievable from combining cooperative Lewis acidic cerium(III) and hemilabile N-heterocyclic carbene functionalities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1563-1569
JournalACS Catalysis
Early online date15 Jan 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Jan 2021


  • Polymerization
  • Catalysis
  • Cerium
  • Polylactide
  • Cyclic
  • NHC


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