Gradient crystallization-driven self-assembly: Cylindrical micelles with "patchy" segmented coronas via the coassembly of linear and brush block copolymers

John R. Finnegan, David J. Lunn, Oliver E C Gould, Zachary M. Hudson, George R. Whittell*, Mitchell A. Winnik, Ian Manners

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

91 Citations (Scopus)


Block copolymers (BCPs) with a short crystallizable poly(ferrocenyldimethylsilane) (PFS) core-forming block self-assemble in selective solvents to afford cylindrical micelles, the ends of which are active to further growth via a process termed living crystallization-driven self-assembly (CDSA). We now report studies of the CDSA of a series of crystalline-brush BCPs with C6(BCP6), C12(BCP12), and C18(BCP18) n-alkyl branches that were prepared by the thiol-ene functionalization of PFS-b-PMVS (PMVS = poly(methylvinylsiloxane)). Although the increased n-alkyl brush length of BCP12and BCP18hindered micelle growth, the increased intercoronal chain repulsion could be alleviated by their coassembly with linear PFS-b-PMVS. When the coassembly was initiated by short cylindrical seed micelles, monodisperse block comicelles of controllable length with "patchy" coronal nanodomains were accessible. TEM and AFM analysis of micelles prepared from BCP18and PFS-b-PMVS were found to provide complementary characterization in that the OsO4-stained PMVS coronal domains were observed by TEM, whereas the brush block domains of BCP18(which displayed greater height) were detected by tapping mode AFM. The results showed that the coassembly afforded a gradient structure, with an initial bias for the growth of the linear BCP over that of the more sterically demanding brush BCP, which was gradually reversed as the linear material was consumed. This represents the first example of living gradient CDSA, a process reminiscent of a living covalent gradient copolymerization of two different monomers. Although other possible explanations exist, simulations based on a statistical model indicated that the coronal nanodomains detected likely result from a segmented, gradient comicelle architecture that arises as a consequence of: (i) different rates of addition of BCP unimer to the micelle termini, and (ii) a cumulative effect resulting from steric hindrance associated with the brush block.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13835-13844
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number39
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2014

Structured keywords

  • BCS and TECS CDTs


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