Amphiphilic phosphine-functionalized nanogel particles were synthesized by aqueous polymerization-induced self-assembly insuring a well-defined architecture as well as a narrow size distribution (average diameter of ca. 90 nm in water). They were successfully applied as ligands for the biphasic hydroformylation of 1-octene catalyzed by rhodium, yielding TOFs in the 350–650 h−1 range and a linear to branched aldehyde ratio of 3.5. Embedding the phosphine ligands within a cross-linked structure did not strongly impede mass transfer toward the active centers, as proved by fast metal coordination and a catalytic activity tantamount to that of higher chain mobility micelles or core-cross-linked micelles that have phosphine moieties located on flexible linear arms.
However, this extended cross-linking reduced particle swelling and transfer to the organic phase, affording a significantly lowered Rh loss. For all the architectures, a low functionalization degree was preferable to achieve high activity, the selectivity remaining essentially unchanged. © 2016 Elsevier Inc.