Polymer ligand–induced autonomous sorting and reversible phase separation in binary particle blends

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Science Advances  23 Dec 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 12, e1601484
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601484


The tethering of ligands to nanoparticles has emerged as an important strategy to control interactions and organization in particle assembly structures. We demonstrate that ligand interactions in mixtures of polymer-tethered nanoparticles (which are modified with distinct types of polymer chains) can impart upper or lower critical solution temperature (UCST/LCST)–type phase behavior on binary particle mixtures in analogy to the phase behavior of the corresponding linear polymer blends. Therefore, cooling (or heating) of polymer-tethered particle blends with appropriate architecture to temperatures below (or above) the UCST (or LCST) results in the organization of the individual particle constituents into monotype microdomain structures. The shape (bicontinuous or island-type) and lengthscale of particle microdomains can be tuned by variation of the composition and thermal process conditions. Thermal cycling of LCST particle brush blends through the critical temperature enables the reversible growth and dissolution of monoparticle domain structures. The ability to autonomously and reversibly organize multicomponent particle mixtures into monotype microdomain structures could enable transformative advances in the high-throughput fabrication of solid films with tailored and mutable structures and properties that play an important role in a range of nanoparticle-based material technologies.

  • nanoparticle
  • colloid
  • Polymer
  • brush
  • phase separation
  • controlled radical polymerization
  • ATRP
  • Self-assembly
  • surface
  • Nanocomposite

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