Self-assembly of diblock molecular polymer brushes in the spherical confinement of nanoemulsion droplets

23 April 2019

Understanding the self-assembly behavior of polymers of various topologies is key to a reliable design of functional polymer materials. Self-assembly under confinement conditions emerges as a versatile avenue to design polymer particles with complex internal morphologies while simultaneously facilitating scale-up. However, only linear block copolymers have been studied to date, despite the increasing control over macromolecule composition and architecture available. This study extends the investigation of polymer self-assembly in confinement from regular diblock copolymers to diblock molecular polymer brushes (MPBs). Block-type MPBs with polystyrene (PS) and polylactide (PLA) compartments of different sizes are incorporated into surfactant-stabilised oil-in-water (chloroform/water) emulsions. The increasing confinement in the nanoemulsion droplets during solvent evaporation directs the MPBs to form solid nano/microparticles. Microscopy studies reveal an intricate internal particle structure, including interpenetrating networks and axially-stacked lamellae of PS and PLA, depending on the PS/PLA ratio of the brushes.