A stepwise "micellization-crystallization" route to oblate ellipsoidal, cylindrical, and bilayer micelles with polyethylene cores in water

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Abstract

Micellar polymorphism from block copolymers has been well documented, but most attention has focused on noncrystalline hydrophobic systems. We have investigated the micellization in water of model diblock copolymers with semicrystalline polyethylene (PE) as the core-forming component. Poly(N,N-dimethylacrylamide)-polyethylene (AE) diblock copolymers were synthesized by a combination of anionic and RAFT polymerizations. The bulk nanostructures were probed by small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and AE diblock copolymers were found to be moderately segregated at 140 °C. Dispersions of AE amphiphiles in water were prepared by direct dissolution at 120 °C (i.e., above the melting transition of PE) followed by cooling to 25 °C. By manipulating the composition of AE diblock copolymers, discrete structures with oblate ellipsoidal, cylindrical, and bilayer morphologies were produced, as evidenced in cryogenic transmission electron microscopy (cryo-TEM). The self-assembled aggregates were also studied by small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) and dilute solution rheology. The semicrystalline nature of the nanostructures was further revealed by differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and wide-angle X-ray scattering (WAXS). A stepwise "micellization- crystallization" process was proposed as the micelle formation mechanism, as supported by the existence of similar nanostructures at 120 °C using SANS. This strategy holds promise for a general protocol toward the production of giant wormlike micelles and vesicles with semicrystalline polymeric cores.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9460-9467
Number of pages8
JournalMacromolecules
Volume45
Issue number23
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 11 2012

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