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Shape-Tunable Core–Shell Microparticles

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posted on 28.10.2014, 00:00 by Matthias K. Klein, Nicolai R. Saenger, Stefan Schuetter, Patrick Pfleiderer, Andreas Zumbusch
Colloidal polymer particles are an important class of materials finding use in both everyday and basic research applications. Tailoring their composition, shape, and functionality is of key importance. In this article, we describe a new class of shape-tunable core–shell microparticles. They are composed of a cross-linked polystyrene (PS) core and a poly­(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) shell of varying thickness. In the first step, we prepared highly cross-linked PS cores, which are subsequently transferred into a nonpolar dispersant. They serve as the seed dispersion for a nonaqueous dispersion polymerization to generate the PMMA shell. The shape of the particles can subsequently be manipulated. After the shell growth stage, the spherical PS/PMMA core–shell colloids exhibit an uneven and wrinkled surface. An additional tempering procedure allows for smoothing the surface of the core–shell colloids. This results in polymer core–shell particles with a perfectly spherical shape. In addition to this thermal smoothing of the PMMA shell, we generated a selection of shape-anisotropic core–shell particles using a thermomechanical stretching procedure. Because of the unique constitution, we can selectively interrogate molecular vibrations in the PS core or the PMMA shell of the colloids using nonlinear optical microscopy techniques. This is of great interest because no photobleaching occurs, such that the particles can be tracked in real space over long times.

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