Facile syntheses of surface-functionalized micelles and shell cross-linked nanoparticles.
Block copolymer micelles and shell cross-linked nanoparticles (SCKs) presenting Click-reactive functional groups on their surfaces were prepared using two separate synthetic strategies, each employing functionalized initiators for the controlled radical polymerization of acrylate and styrenic monomers to afford amphiphilic block copolymers bearing an alkynyl or azido group at the -terminus. The first route for the synthesis of the azide-functionalized nanostructures was achieved via sequential nitroxide-mediated radical polymerization (NMP) of tert-butyl acrylate and styrene, originating from a benzylic chloride-functionalized initiator, followed by deprotection of the acrylic acids, supramolecular assembly of the block copolymer in water and conversion of the benzylic chloride to a benzylic azide. In contrast, the second strategy utilized an alkynyl-functionalized reversible addition fragmentation transfer (RAFT) agent directly for the RAFT-based sequential polymerization of tetrahydropyran acrylate and styrene, followed by selective cleavage of the tetrahydropyran esters to give the -alkynyl-functionalized block copolymers. These Click-functionalized polymers, with the functionality located at the hydrophilic polymer termini, were then self-assembled using a mixed-micelle methodology to afford surface-functionalized “Clickable” micelles in aqueous solutions. The optimum degree of incorporation of the Click-functionalized polymers was investigated and determined to be ca. 25%, which allowed for the synthesis of well-defined surface-functionalized nanoparticles after cross-linking selectively throughout the shell layer using established amidation chemistry. Functionalization of the chain ends was shown to be an efficient process under standard Click conditions and the resulting functional groups revealed a more “solution-like” environment when compared to the functional group randomly inserted into the hydrophilic shell layer.