Over the years our group has synthesized ABC triblock terpolymers and developed methods that allow to generate a large diversity of superstructures in bulk, emulsions and dilute solution. If superstructures are dispersed and two blocks (e.g. A and B) are insoluble, they will form compartments within the dispersed nanoparticles or micelles. . The hierarchical step-wise self-assembly of ABC triblock terpoylmers was pioneered in our group and gave utmost control over size, shape, inner morphology, and chemistry of the formed multicompartment micelles. These materials are mostly studied for their potential as multifunctional delivery vehicles in nanomedicine. However, the nanoscale compartmentalization could be beneficial for a range of other applications as well.
In several new and running projects, we explore applications for this fascination class of potentially multifunctional materials realted to mineralization and catalysis. One direction is the selective mineralization of metals/metal oxides within the compartments of terpolymer nanostructures in bulk and solution creating multimetallic replicas with complex shape and interplay. Another project comprises the modification of individual compartments of multicompartment micelles with catalysts to perform multistep one-pot cascade catalysis in water.
Block copolymers form very defined nanostructures when dried. In bulk competing interactions of the blocks will direct their orientation so that specific space groups and symmetries are created spontaneously. While AB diblock copolymers have already demonstrated capabilities that go beyond spheres, cylinders, gyriode and lamellae, ABC triblock terpoylmers on the other hand
Cascade Catalysis in Self-Assembled Multicompartment Nanoreactors (MCNRs)
Compartmentalization is a fundamental concept in nature that allows organisms to separately store, convert and transport matter. Self-assembled compartments further allow the site-isolation of catalytic species so that cross-reaction between these catalysts is avoided. In the "organs" of cells (organelles) catalytic cycles are performed with multiple catalysts that would consume each other. However, still it seems to be possible to synthesize organic molecules through multistep one-pot catalysis in water. The solution in nature is to strictly separate these “wolf and lamb” catalysts and store them in compartments or walls of compartments, where they are locally immobilized so that they cannot reach and react with each other. It would be desirable to mimic such a water-soluble multicompartment nanoreactor (MCNR) with self-assembly concepts. Cascade catalyses in one-pot reactors in water would already be very beneficial regarding the lower required amount of solvents and energy. Combined with the nanoscale distances of nanocompartments (and the catalysts) catalytic steps could become very fast with high yields and even allow some cascades for the first time where otherwise intermediates would reactions
We currently design ABC triblock terpolymers so that after formation of compartments, catalysts are protected by site-isolation within these compartments.