Polymer and Colloid Synthesis

Controlled polymerization

We are mostly interested in the synthesis of functional block copolymers and other polymer architectures. These form basic structural elements for most of our self-assembly projects. We aim to develop synthetic protocols for ABC triblock terpolymers suited for self-assembly in aqueous solutions. We utilize controlled radical polymerization techniques such as ATRP and RAFT to control block length and polymer composition for the predictive self-assembly of shapes inner morphology of superstructures. Together these techniques allow the polymerization of almost any monomer functionality.

ABC Triblock Terpolymers

Controlled polymerization methods enable the sequential synthesis of ABC triblock terpolymers consisting of three covalently linked polymer blocks of different chemistry. Depending on the monomer, the blocks then typically respond to different stimuli such as temperature, pH, salinity, or even subtle changes in solvent polarity. Over the years our group has synthesized a large range of 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.

Emulsion Polymerization

We utilize surfactant free emulsion polymerization to create colloidal particles with near-monodisperse size-distribution in the range of 100-1000 nm. We typically synthesize isotropic latex particles with simple chemistry (e.g. PS, PMMA), but progress towards more complex particle shapes and compositions.
We currently work on recipes that will generate microparticles with core-shell structure for acid/base cascade catalysis. The sequential polymerization of core and shell strictly separate both domains depending on the cross-linking density. The size of the shell versus the core and the relative content  of organocatalyst will determine reaction kinetics.