Self-Assembly of Amphiphilic Liquid Crystal Polymers Obtained from a Cyclopropane-1,1-Dicarboxylate Bearing a Cholesteryl Mesogen

We study the self-assembly of a new family of amphiphilic liquid crystal (LC) copolymers synthesized by the anionic ring-opening polymerization of a new cholesterol-based LC monomer, 4-(cholesteryl)­butyl ethyl cyclopropane-1,1-dicarboxylate. Using the t-BuP4 phosphazene base and thiophenol or a poly­(ethylene glycol) (PEG) functionalized with thiol group to generate in situ the initiator during the polymerization, LC homopolymer and amphiphilic copolymers with narrow molecular weight distributions were obtained. The self-assemblies of the LC monomer, homopolymer, and block copolymers in bulk and in solution were studied by small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), polarizing optical microscopy (POM), and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). All polymers exhibit in bulk an interdigitated smectic A (SmAd) phase with a lamellar period of 4.6 nm. The amphiphilic copolymers self-organize in solution into vesicles with wavy membrane and nanoribbons with twisted and folded structures, depending on concentration and size of LC hydrophobic block. These new morphologies will help the comprehension of the fascinating organization of thermotropic mesophase in lyotropic structures.