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Effect of Core Cross-linking on the Physical Properties of Poly(dimethylsiloxane)-Based Diblock Copolymer Worms Prepared in Silicone Oil

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journal contribution
posted on 30.08.2019, 17:03 by Matthew J. Rymaruk, Cate T. O’Brien, Steven L. Brown, Clive N. Williams, Steven P. Armes
A trithiocarbonate-capped poly­(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) precursor is chain-extended via reversible addition–fragmentation chain transfer dispersion polymerization of 2-(dimethylamino)­ethyl methacrylate (DMA) in decamethylcyclopentasiloxane (D5) silicone oil at 90 °C. For a fixed mean degree of polymerization (DP) of 66 for the PDMS steric stabilizer block, targeting core-forming PDMA block DPs of between 105 and 190 enables the preparation of either well-defined worms or vesicles at a copolymer concentration of 25% w/w. The as-synthesized linear PDMS66–PDMA100 worms exhibit thermoresponsive behavior in D5, undergoing a worm-to-sphere transition on heating to 100 °C. Variable temperature 1H NMR spectroscopy indicates that this thermal transition is driven by reversible solvent plasticization of the PDMA cores. This change in copolymer morphology is characterized by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) studies, variable temperature dynamic light scattering and small-angle X-ray scattering experiments. Oscillatory rheology studies indicate that degelation occurs at 32 °C, but shear-induced polarized light imaging measurements suggest that full conversion of worms into spheres requires significantly higher temperatures (∼110 °C). 1,2-Bis­(2-iodoethoxy)­ethane (BIEE) is evaluated as a cross-linker for PDMS66–PDMAx diblock copolymer nano-objects in D5. This bifunctional reagent quaternizes the tertiary amine groups on the DMA residues within the worm cores, introducing cross-links via the Menshutkin reaction. TEM studies confirm that such covalently-stabilized worms no longer undergo a worm-to-sphere transition when heated to 100 °C. Kinetic studies performed on PDMS66–PDMA176 vesicles suggest that cross-linking requires approximately 13 h at 20 °C to ensure that these nano-objects remain intact when dispersed in chloroform, which is a good solvent for both blocks. Oscillatory rheology studies of a PDMS66–PDMA100 worm gel indicated that covalent stabilization using a BIEE/DMA molar ratio of 0.15 increased its dynamic elastic modulus (G′) by almost two orders of magnitude. Furthermore, such cross-linked worms exhibit a much lower critical gelation concentration (∼2% w/w) compared to that of the linear precursor worms (∼12% w/w).