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Phosphoryl and thiophosphoryldithioformates as spin traps: from EPR studies to practical applications

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This paper is aimed at providing an overview of our studies on the title compounds as spin trapping agents, and at emphasising the links between purely cognitive, academic research and industrial applications. Phosphoryl- and thiophosphoryl-dithioformates exhibit a comparable and interesting spin trapping ability, their efficiency being analogous to that of some aromatic thioketones. The spectral hyperfine structure may provide valuable information on the nature of the trapped radical but the phosphorus hfs constant cannot be used as an useful indicator. Thionformates are less efficient spin traps than the corresponding dithioformates, being inert towards stabilised radicals such as benzyl or relatively hindered radicals as tert-butoxyl. In no case could spin adducts to thiolformates be detected, this being an indication that their carbonyl group is significantly deactivated with respect to that of organic and organometallic ketones. Because of their ability in trapping either alkyl or alkoxy radicals both kind of dithioformates were exploited as stabilisers in the processing of such polymers as polypropylene, but their outstanding performance could not compensate for some organoleptic drawbacks that were intrinsic of the thiocarbonyl function. A much more promising application of dithioesters is instead their use as RAFT chain transfer agents in the controlled polymerisation of styrene. Preliminary experiments with benzyl diethoxyphosphoryldithioformate have afforded polystyrene with a polydispersity as low as 1.17, but further studies are needed to fully elucidate the RAFT-polymerisation mechanism and to optimise its outcome.


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