Best of Macros 2017: Makoto Ouchi

Makoto Ouchi has been an Associate Professor at the Department of Polymer Chemistry, Graduate School of Engineering, Kyoto University, since 2004. He received his Ph.D. degree at Kyoto University in 2001 under the supervision of Professor Sawamoto. He then joined Toyota Central R&D Labs to develop poly(lactic acid)-based automobile resin, and was later a visiting researcher in Professor David A. Tirrell’s group at the California Institute of Technology. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 2010, and since 2013 he has been a researcher at PRESTO (molecular technology and new function), Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST). His current interests include development of precision polymerizations, as well as development of very active polymerization catalysts.

His article “Sequence Analysis for Alternating Copolymers by MALDI-TOF-MS: Importance of Initiator Selectivity for Comonomer Pair” in Macromolecular Rapid Communications, published with Mitsuo Sawamoto, has been selected for this year’s Best of Macros.

Ask the Author

What other topics are you working on at the moment? We have recently found a ring-expansion cationic polymerization of vinyl monomer with a cyclic initiator. I believe the polymerization will open the door to construction of well-defined ring-based macromolecular architectures and creation of ring-oriented functions. 

What fields did you study? I studied stereo- and regiospecific cationic polymerization when I was a Ph.D. student. After getting my Ph.D. for this research, I worked as a company researcher in charge of developing automobile materials with poly(lactic acid) for several years.  I then entered the world of academia at Kyoto University to study development of active catalysts for living polymerization and ring-expansion polymerization as well as sequence-controlled polymers. 

What is your favorite activity outside of the lab? I like gathering with alcoholic drinks.  Ethanol is important not as a reaction solvent but for a refreshing change of pace. 

 What are the main challenges in the broad area of your research? There is a big difference between natural polymers and synthetic polymers in terms of structure and function, though both are macromolecules. In particular, sequence is an essential structure for natural polymers to determine their functions.  Sequence control for synthetic polymers is a challenging subject but I believe it could change the concept of macromolecular engineering for functional materials.  One ultimate challenge in my research is synthesis of sequence-controlled polymers consisting of the same monomer derivatives (e.g., methacrylates, acrylamides, styrenes).

What is the most significant result of this study? The crossover propagation in alternating copolymerization used to be described by a 1:1 composition ratio of obtained copolymer independent of the injection comonomer ratio. In this article, we studied some types of halo-initiators of metal-catalyzed living radical polymerization for alternating copolymerization of styrene and maleimide and found a “selective” initiation from a malonate-type initiator giving electron-poor radical species to styrene.  Due to the selective initiation, the first monomer unit next to the initiator was defined, which allowed sequence analyses of resultant copolymers by MALDI-TOF-MS. 

I am waiting for the day when…. my research becomes really useful for human life.

My favorite molecules is….. isobutyl vinyl ether, because this is the monomer I first polymerized.

Sequence Analysis for Alternating Copolymers by MALDI-TOF-MS: Importance of Initiator Selectivity for Comonomer Pair
Kana Nishimori, Makoto Ouchi,* Mitsuo Sawamoto*
Macromol. Rapid Commun. 2016, 37, 1414−1420
DOI: 10.1002/marc.201600251

Return to the authors index