Supramolecular Copolymerization as a Strategy to Control the Stability of Self-Assembled Nanofibers

Bala N. S. Thota, Xianwen Lou, Davide Bochicchio, Tim F. E. Paffen, René P. M. Lafleur, Joost L. J. van Dongen, Svenja Ehrmann, Rainer Haag, Giovanni M. Pavan, Anja R. A. Palmans, E. W. Meijer

Published: 04/06/2018


A major challenge in supramolecular polymerization is controlling the stability of the polymers formed, that is, controlling the rate of monomer exchange in the equilibrium between monomer and polymer. The exchange dynamics of supramolecular polymers based on benzene‐1,3,5‐tricarboxamide (BTA) can be regulated by copolymerizing molecules with dendronized (dBTA) and linear (nBTA) ethylene glycol‐based water‐soluble side chains. Whereas nBTAs form long nanofibers in water, dBTAs do not polymerize, forming instead small spherical aggregates. The copolymerization of the two BTAs results in long nanofibers. The exchange dynamics of both the BTA monomers in the copolymer are significantly slowed down in the mixed systems, leading to a more stable copolymer, while the morphology and spectroscopic signature of the copolymers are identical to that of nBTA homopolymer. This copolymerization is the supramolecular counterpart of styrene/ maleic anhydride copolymerization.

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