Effect of Charged Block Length Mismatch on Double Diblock Polyelectrolyte Complex Micelle Cores

Kaden C. Stevens, Alexander E. Marras, Trinity R. Campagna, Jeffrey M. Ting, Matthew V. Tirrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Polyelectrolyte complex micelles are hydrophilic nanoparticles that self-assemble in aqueous environments due to associative microphase separation between oppositely charged blocky polyelectrolytes. In this work, we employ a suite of physical characterization tools to examine the effect of charged block length mismatch on the equilibrium structure of double diblock polyelectrolyte complex micelles (D-PCMs) by mixing a diverse library of peptide and synthetic charged-neutral block polyelectrolytes with a wide range of charged block lengths (25-200 units) and chemistries. Early work on D-PCMs suggested that this class of micelles can only be formed from blocky polyelectrolytes with identical charged block lengths, a phenomenon referred to as chain length recognition. Here, we use salt annealing to create PCMs at equilibrium, which shows that chain length recognition, a longstanding hurdle to repeatable self-assembly from mismatched polyelectrolytes, can be overcome. Interestingly, D-PCM structure-property relationships display a range of values that vary systematically with the charged block lengths and chemical identity of constituent polyelectrolyte pairings and cannot be described by generalizable scaling laws. We discuss the interdependent growth behavior of the radius, ionic pair aggregation number, and density in the micelle core for three chemically distinct diblock pairings and suggest a potential physical mechanism that leads to this unique behavior. By comparing the results of these D-PCMs to the scaling laws recently developed for single diblock polyelectrolyte complex micelles (S-PCMs: diblock + homopolymer), we observe that D-PCM design schemes reduce the size and aggregation number and restrict their growth to a function of charged block length relative to S-PCMs. Understanding these favorable attributes enables more predictive use of a wider array of charged molecular building blocks to anticipate and control macroscopic properties of micelles spanning countless storage and delivery applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5557-5566
Number of pages10
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 25 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Published by American Chemical Society

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


Dive into the research topics of 'Effect of Charged Block Length Mismatch on Double Diblock Polyelectrolyte Complex Micelle Cores'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this