Journal of the American Chemical Society, Vol.124, No.14, 3787-3793, 2002
Switching the inside and the outside of aggregates of water-soluble block copolymers with double thermoresponsivity
Water-soluble block copolymers were prepared from the nonionic monomer N-isopropylacrylamide (NIPA) and the zwitterionic monomer 3-[N-(3-methacrylamidopropyl)-N,N-dimethyl]ammoniopropane sulfonate (SPP) by sequential free radical polymerization via the RAFT process. Such block copolymers with two hydrophilic blocks exhibit double thermoresponsive behavior in water: the poly-NIPA block shows a lower critical solution temperature, whereas the poly-SPP block exhibits an upper critical solution temperature. Appropriate design of the block lengths leads to block copolymers which stay in solution in the full temperature range between 0 and 100 degreesC. Both blocks of these polymers dissolve in water at intermediate temperatures, whereas at high temperatures, the poly-NIPA block forms colloidal hydrophobic associates that are kept in solution by the poly-SPP block, and at low temperatures, the poly-SPP block forms colloidal polar aggregates that are kept in solution by the poly-NIPA block. In this way, colloidal aggregates which switch reversibly can be prepared in water, and without any additive, their "inside" to the "outside", and vice versa. The aggregates provide microdomains and surfaces of different character, which can be controlled by a simple thermal stimulus.