Solvent-free formation of cyclodextrin-based pseudopolyrotaxanes of polyethylene glycol: kinetic and structural aspects
Pseudopolyrotaxanes (PPRs) are supramolecular structures consisting of macrocycles able to thread on a linear polymer chain in a reversible, non-covalent way, often referred to in the literature as "molecular necklaces". While the synthesis and reaction mechanisms of these structures in solution have been widely described, their solvent-free production has received little attention, despite the advantages that this route may offer. We propose in this work a kinetic mechanism that describes the PPR formation in the solid phase as a process occurring in two consecutive stages. This mechanism has been used to investigate the spontaneous formation of a PPR that occurs when grinding alpha-Cyclodextrin (alpha-CD) with polyethylene glycol (PEG). In the threading stage, the inclusion of the polymer and subsequent release of the water molecules lodged in the cavity of the macrocycle cause vibrational changes that are reflected in the time-dependence of the FTIR-ATR spectra, while the further assembly of PPRs to form crystals produces characteristic reflections in the XRD patterns, due to the channel-like arrangement of CDs, that can be used to track the formation of the adduct in crystalline form. The effects that working variables have on the kinetics of the reaction, such as temperature, feed ratio, molar mass of the polymer and the introduction of an amorphous block in the polymer structure, have been investigated. The rate constants of the threading step increase with the temperature and the activation energy of the process increases at lower proportions of CD to PEG. This is attributed to the lower degree of covering of the polymer chain with CDs that reduces the hydrogen-bonding driven stabilization between adjacent macrocycles. The formation of crystalline PPR, which takes place slowly at room temperature, is markedly promoted at higher temperatures, with lower proportions of CD favoring both the formation and the growth of the crystals. The molar mass of the polymer does not modify the typical channel-like arrangement of packed PPRs but the conversion into crystalline PPR diminishes when using PEG1000 instead of PEG400. At a microscopic level, the crystals arrange into lamellar structures, in the order of hundreds of nm, embedded in an amorphous-like matrix. The introduction of a polypropylene oxide block in the structure of the polymer (Pluronic L62) renders poorer yields and a considerable loss of crystallinity of the product of the reaction. The methodology here proposed can be applied to the general case of inclusion complexes of CDs with drugs in the solid phase, or to multicomponent systems that contain polymers as excipients in pharmaceutical formulations along with CDs.