21.16: Cationic Chain-Growth Polymerization: Mechanism
The cationic polymerization mechanism consists of three steps: initiation, propagation, and termination. In the initiation step of the polymerization process, the π bond of a monomer gets protonated by the Lewis acid catalyst, which is formed from boron trifluoride and water. The protonation of the π bond generates a carbocation stabilized by the electron‐donating group. In the propagation step, the π bond of the second monomer acts as a nucleophile and attacks the generated carbocation, thereby producing a dimer that acts as a new carbocation. The propagation step repeats itself and builds the polymer chain. In the termination step, the propagating chain gets terminated either by adding a base that deprotonates the carbocation and forms a new π bond or by the attack of a nucleophile on the carbocation, where the nucleophile adds to the cationic end of the chain.