Collaborative Research: Exotic Block Copolymer Nanoparticles through Hierarchical Solution Construction
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TECHNICAL SUMMARY:This project is a collaboration between the University of Delaware and Texas A&M which aims to establish new experimental paradigms for the construction of novel, exotic nanoparticles. Protocols will be developed that direct block copolymer solution behavior through fine-tuning stagewise iterations of kinetic vs. thermodynamic control and the application of chemical modifications at desired stages. In addition, a new toolbox of block copolymer functionality will be formulated for solution construction of nanoparticles. New block copolymer chemistries will allow a) shell crosslinking, b) core crosslinking, c) shell degradation, d) core degradation, e) display of ligand functionality from shell of polymer nanoparticle, f) extension to polybases as hydrophilic blocks for complexation with multiacid molecules during kinetically controlled assembly, and g) new hydrophobic blocks for phase separation once trapped within internal domains of the nanoparticles due to kinetically controlled hierarchical assembly. New solvent mixing pathways will be used to develop kinetically-controlled assembly processes for trapping two or more different block copolymers into the same nanoparticle for local phase separation and multicompartment particle construction. Resultant multicompartment particles can then undergo additional assembly and/or synthetic steps in a hierarchical construction process towards arbitrary, asymmetric structure and future function.NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY:This research will develop the ability of scientists to create particles on the nanoscale with unprecedented complexity in structure and function. Nature contains plenty of examples of complex nanostructures that display ornate shape and function, both beneficial (e.g. microtubules within cells, cell membranes) and deleterious (e.g. viruses). New methods of synthesizing large polymer molecules, combined with new methods for forcing these molecules together to produce nanostructures, will be sought and combined to make extraordinary synthetic nanostructures. With effort, the construction method to make these nanomaterials will be as routine as lithography is in making microprocessors and memories for modern electronics. Ideally, the final nanostructures will be as arbitrary in structure and useful as lithographically produced devices in the future. The students who perform this interdisciplinary research will gain a broad and deep knowledge of nanomaterials science and polymer chemistry. All students involved will spread this knowledge to pre-college students through K-12 activities that use the research to develop fun, interesting topics to promote their interest in science and technology.