Creating Surfactant Nanoparticles for Block Copolymer Composites through Surface Chemistry

graphical abstract
Kim, Bumjoon J.; Bang, Joona; Hawker, Craig J.; Chiu, Julia J.; Pine, David J.; Jang, Se Gyu; Yang, Seung-Man; Kramer, Edward J.;
23, 12693-12703.

A simple strategy to tailor the surface of nanoparticles for their specific adsorption to and localization at block copolymer interfaces was explored. Gold nanoparticles coated by a mixture of low molecular weight thiol end-functional polystyrene (PS-SH) (Mn = 1.5 and 3.4 kg/mol) and poly(2-vinylpyridine) homopolymers (P2VP-SH) (Mn = 1.5 and 3.0 kg/mol) were incorporated into a lamellar poly(styrene-b-2-vinylpyridine) diblock copolymer (PS-b-P2VP) (Mn = 196 kg/mol). A library of nanoparticles with varying PS and P2VP surface compositions (FPS) and high polymer ligand areal chain densities was synthesized. The location of the nanoparticles in the PS-b-P2VP block copolymer was determined by transmission electron microscopy. Sharp transitions in particle location from the PS domain to the PS/P2VP interface, and subsequently to the P2VP domain, were observed at FPS = 0.9 and 0.1, respectively. This extremely wide window of FPS values where the polymer-coated gold nanoparticles adsorb to the interface suggests a redistribution of PS and P2VP polymers on the Au surface, inducing the formation of amphiphilic nanoparticles at the PS/P2VP interface. In a second and synthetically more challenging approach, gold nanoparticles were covered with a thiol terminated random copolymer of styrene and 2-vinylpyridine synthesized by RAFT polymerization. Two different random copolymers were considered, where the molecular weight was fixed at 3.5 kg/mol and the relative incorporation of styrene and 2-vinylpyridine repeat units varied (FPS = 0.52 and 0.40). The areal chain density of these random copolymers on Au is unfortunately not high enough to preclude any contact between the P2VP block of the block copolymer and the Au surface. Interestingly, gold nanoparticles coated by the random copolymer with FPS = 0.4 were dispersed in the P2VP domain, while those with FPS = 0.52 were located at the interface. A simple calculation for the adsorption energy to the interface of the nanoparticles with different surface arrangements of PS and P2VP ligands supports evidence for the rearrangement of thiol terminated homopolymers. An upper limit estimate of the adsorption energy of nanoparticles uniformly coated with a random arrangement of PS and P2VP ligands where a 10% surface area was occupied by P2VP -mers or chains was 1 kBT, which indicates that such nanoparticles are unlikely to be segregated along the interface, in contrast to the experimental results for nanoparticles with mixed ligand-coated surfaces.