Polymer and Colloid Synthesis

We specialize in the synthesis of functional polymers with diverse architectures (mostly block copolymers) as well as nanostructured particles. These serve as basic elements of our self-assembly projects. We utilize controlled polymerization techniques such as anionic ring-opening polymerization (AROP), atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) and reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization to control block length and polymer composition. Together these techniques allow the polymerization of almost any monomer chemistry.

  • Block Copolymers

    Controlled polymerization techniques enable the sequential synthesis of block copolymers consisting of two or more covalently linked polymer blocks with different chemistry. Depending on the monomer, the blocks can respond to different external stimuli such as temperature, pH, salinity, or solvent polarity. We expand our current library by synthesizing tailor-made AB diblock copolymer and ABC triblock terpolymers, and developed methods to assemble them into complex thin film morphologies, compartmentalized microparticles, patchy nanoparticles, and multicompartment micelles.

    Polymerization of ABC triblock terpolymers
    Polymerization of ABC triblock terpolymers
    © A.Gröschel
  • SEM image of a colloidal crystal (by Chen Chen)
    SEM image of a colloidal crystal (by Chen Chen)
    © A. Gröschel

    Emulsion Polymerization

    We utilize surfactant free emulsion polymerization to create colloidal particles with near-monodisperse size-distribution in the range of 100-1000 nm. We typically synthesize isotropic latex particles (e.g. PS, PMMA), but also more complex particle shapes and compositions. If synthesized properly, the microparticles have such a narrow size distribution that they spontaneously crystallize into colloidal lattices, which, in the proper size range, show structural color. We currently develop recipes that allow to generate microparticles with a core-shell structure for acid/base cascade catalysis.