Xu and her group found such a "mediator" in the form of small molecules that will join with nanoparticles and then able attach themselves and their nanoparticle partners to the surface of a block copolymer. For this study, Xu and her group used two different types of small molecules, surfactants (wetting agents) dubbed "PDP" and "OPAP." These small molecules can be stimulated by light (PDP) or heat (OPAP) to sever their connection to the surface of a block copolymer and be repositioned to another location along the polymeric chain. In this manner, the spatial distribution of the small molecule mediators and their nanoparticle partners can be precisely directed with no need to modify either the nanoparticles or the polymers.
"The beauty of this technique is that it involves no sophisticated chemistry," says Xu. "It really is a plug and play technique, in which you simply mix the nanoparticles with the block copolymers and then add whatever small molecules you need."
For this study, Xu and her colleagues added PDP or OPAP small molecules to various blends of nanoparticles, such
as cadmium selenide and lead sulfide, mixed in with a commercial block copolymer - polystyrene-block-poly (4-vinyl pyridine). While she and her group worked with light and heat, she says other stimuli, such as pH, could also be used to reposition small molecules and their nanoparticle partners along block copolymer formations. Strategic substitutions of different types of stimulus-responsive small molecules could serve as a mechanism for structural fine-tuning or for incorporating specific functional properties into nanocomposites. Xu and her colleagues are now in the process of adding functional
|Contact: Lynn Yarris|
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory