Anisotropic Microgels by Supramolecular Assembly and Precipitation Polymerization of Pyrazole-Modified Monomers
Frédéric Grabowski, Vladislav S. Petrovskii, Fabian Fink, Dan Eugen Demco, Sonja Herres-Pawlis, Igor I. Potemkin, Andrij Pich
Soft colloidal macromolecular structures with programmable chemical functionalities, size, and shape are important building blocks for the fabrication of catalyst systems and adaptive biomaterials for tissue engineering. However, the development of the easy upscalable and template-free synthesis methods to obtain such colloids lack in understanding of molecular interactions that occur in the formation mechanisms of polymer colloids. Herein, a computer simulation-driven experimental synthesis approach based on the supramolecular self-assembly followed by polymerization of tailored pyrazole-modified monomers is developed. Simulations for a series of pyrazole-modified monomers with different numbers of pyrazole groups, different length and polarity of spacers between pyrazole groups and the polymerizable group are first performed. Based on simulations, monomers able to undergo π–π stacking and guide the formation of supramolecular bonds between polymer segments are synthesized and these are used in precipitation polymerization to synthesize anisotropic microgels. This study demonstrates that microgel morphologies can be tuned from spherical, raspberry-like to dumbbell-like by the increase of the pyrazole-modified monomer loading, which is concentrated at periphery of growing microgels. Combining experimental and simulation results, this work provides a quantitative and predictive approach for guiding microgel design that can be further extended to a diversity of colloidal systems and soft materials with superior properties.
anisotropic microgels, supermolecular, polymerization