The homogeneous dinuclear zinc catalyst going back to the work of Williams et al. is to date the most active catalyst for the copolymerisation of cyclohexene oxide and CO(2) at one atmosphere of carbon dioxide. However, this catalyst shows no copolymer formation in the copolymerisation reaction of propylene oxide and carbon dioxide, instead only cyclic carbonate is found. This behaviour is known for many zinc-based catalysts, although the reasons are still unidentified. Within our studies, we focus on the parameters that are responsible for this typical behaviour. A deactivation of the catalyst due to a reaction with propylene oxide turns out to be negligible. Furthermore, the catalyst still shows poly(cyclohexene carbonate) formation in the presence of cyclic propylene carbonate, but the catalyst activity is dramatically reduced. In terpolymerisation reactions of CO(2) with different ratios of cyclohexene oxide to propylene oxide, no incorporation of propylene oxide can be detected, which can only be explained by a very fast back-biting reaction. Kinetic investigations indicate a complex reaction network, which can be manifested by theoretical investigations. DFT calculations show that the ring strains of both epoxides are comparable and the kinetic barriers for the chain propagation even favour the poly(propylene carbonate) over the poly(cyclohexene carbonate) formation. Therefore, the crucial step in the copolymerisation of propylene oxide and carbon dioxide is the back-biting reaction in the case of the studied zinc catalyst. The depolymerisation is several orders of magnitude faster for poly(propylene carbonate) than for poly(cyclohexene carbonate).

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