Logo JG-Universität MainzProf. Dr. Axel Müller


PhD Thesis

Soft Compartmentalized Polymer Colloids: Janus Particles, Multicompartment Structures, Inorganic-Organic Hybrids and Applications

Andreas Walther (02/2006-06/2008)

Support: Axel H. E. Müller


Compartmentalized polymer-based colloids with nanoscopic dimensions and different topologies were prepared based on various block copolymer architectures. The polymers were prepared via anionic polymerization or a controlled radical polymerization technique (RAFT). Self-assembly both in solution and in bulk were rigorously exploited to create the multicompartment architectures. Several new crosslinking strategies, in bulk and in solution, were thoroughly investigated to allow a controlled preservation and a high shape persistence of the colloidal particles even when exposed to non-selective solvents.

Cylindrical and disc-like Janus particles were investigated according to their self-assembly behavior into superstructures. The Janus discs undergo back-to-back stacking in organic solvent. In aqueous solution, a size-dependent aggregation was found. While the smaller Janus discs are unimolecularly dissolved with a significant polystyrene surface exposed to the water, the larger Janus sheets can shield the insoluble side by a large bending in an intramolecular fashion. Janus cylinders self-assemble on two hierarchical levels. Upon exposure to a selective solvent, they self-organize into fibers. The length of these fibers depends on the concentration and a critical aggregation concentration exists below which self-assembly is absent. Secondly, the Janus cylinders form fibrillar networks with tunable pore sizes when deposited from more concentrated solution.

The surface-active properties of spherical Janus particle were exploited for the investigation of two possible applications of both academic and industrial relevance. In Pickering emulsion polymerization, extremely well-defined latexes with long-term stability could be prepared in a very facile fashion. A control of the particle size by changing the concentration of Janus particles could easily be achieved. Secondly, the nanostructuring of polymer blends was shown for a PS/PMMA model system. The system exhibits a control on two length scales. The first is the controlled decrease of the domains of the dispersed phase and the second is the controlled spacing between the particles at the interface. The particles are exclusively located at the interface and the nanostructuring can be obtained while matching macroscopic processing constraints, i.e. high-shear blending in a mini mixer.

The self-assembly of bis-hydrophilic triblock terpolymers with two outer hydrophobic blocks was investigated for a variety of different hydrophilic end blocks. The overall architecture of the solution structures could be tailored by changing the hydrophobic-to-hydrophilic balance. Additionally, the interaction between the corona-forming blocks has an influence on the particle shapes as well. The micelles possess coronas with appealing and tunable properties, due to the presence of a hydrophobic core and hydrophilic biocompatible and stimuli-responsive segments.

The self-assembly of miktoarm star terpolymers, bearing arms of polystyrene (PS), polybutadiene (PB) and poly(2-vinylpyridine) (P2VP), was analyzed both in solution as well as in the bulk state. In solution, the miktoarm star terpolymers form multicompartment micelles with a glassy (PS) and a soft compartment (PB), all rendered water-soluble by the P2VP corona. Strikingly, the soft PB compartments show hydrophobic bridges in aqueous medium which is of high interest as they can be used as a second motif for sensing, adhesion control or interaction with cellular membranes.

The transfer of a hexagonally ordered cylindrical bulk phase via crosslinking of the PB domain of a bulk structure of a similar miktoarm star terpolymer allowed the preparation of novel multicompartment cylinders. The structures possess perfectly parallel aligned compartments. Two symmetric and opposing PS and P2VP compartments surround a central ribbon-like PB compartment. The P2VP compartments could be used to generate perfectly aligned bi-axial nanowires inside spatially separated compartments within close proximity. Due to the presence of an amphiphilic corona, the extent of the compartmentalization can be tuned from separated nanowires into one homogenous nanowire simply by exchanging the solvent. The complexity and high control of the structure of this multicompartment cylinder is unmatched and can most likely not be obtained by solution based self-assembly.

In a third part, the controlled crosslinking of polybutadiene-block-poly(2-vinylpyridine) (PB-b-P2VP) block copolymers was investigated towards the preparation of shape-persistent templates for inorganic-organic hybrid materials. The in-depth analysis of the self-assembly behavior of several diblock copolymers in dioxane/water mixtures revealed the presence of a multitude of colloidal aggregates, and to the discovery of a new mechanism for the phase transition from cylindrical micelles to vesicles. The shapes of the aggregates could be locked via a simple photocrosslinking procedure and allowed their transfer into non-selective solvents under retention of their shape.

In a second approach, a cylindrical bulk phase of the PB-b-P2VP block copolymers was crosslinked, yielding core-crosslinked compartmentalized nanorods. These nanorods were used for the conjugation with keggin-type polyoxometalates. The resulting hybrid materials show very well-defined rod-like structures and possess high surface-areas. They serve as catalyst carriers in current investigations.

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