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Hierarchical Polymer–Carbon Nanotube Hybrid Mesostructures by Crystallization-Driven Self-Assembly

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journal contribution
posted on 24.11.2015, 00:00 by Lin Jia, Amy Petretic, Gregory Molev, Gerald Guerin, Ian Manners, Mitchell A. Winnik
Multistep crystallization-driven self-assembly has great potential to enable the construction of sophisticated hybrid mesostructures. During the assembly procedure, each step modifies the properties of the overall structure. Here, we demonstrate the flexibility and efficiency of this approach by preparing polymer–carbon nanotube (CNT) hybrid mesostructures. We started by growing polyferrocenyldimethylsilane (PFS) homopolymer crystals onto multiwalled CNTs. This first step facilitated the redispersion of the coated CNTs in both polar (2-propanol) and nonpolar (decane) solvents. In the second step of hybrid construction, a unimer solution of a PFS block copolymer was added into the PFS-CNT solution. The PFS coating on the CNT initiated the growth of elongated micelles, resulting in structures that resembled hairy caterpillars. PFS-b-P2VP (P2VP = poly-2-vinylpyridine) micelles were grown from the surface of PFS-CNT hybrids in 2-propanol, and PFS-b-PI (PI = polyisoprene) micelles were grown from these hybrids in decane. These micelles, by transmission electron microscopy were seen to have an unusual wavy kinked structure, very different from the uniform smooth structures normally formed by both block copolymers. For hybrids with PFS-b-PI micelles, cross-linking of the micelle coronas locked the whole structure in place and allowed us to use the partial oxidation of PFS components to grow metal nanoparticles in the core of these micelles. We finally investigated the influence of the corona-forming block used to grow the micelles on the wettability of films made from these mesostructures. Films formed with CNT hybrids grafted with PFS-b-PI micelles were superhydrophobic (contact angle, 152°). In contrast, the surface of the films was much more hydrophilic (contact angle, 54°) when they were prepared from CNT hybrids grafted with PFS-b-P2VP micelles.