Poly(ε-caprolactone)-graft-poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) amphiphilic copolymers prepared by a combination of ring-opening polymerization and atom transfer radical polymerization: Synthesis, self-assembly, and thermoresponsive property



Thermoresponsive graft copolymers of ε-caprolactone and N-isopropylacrylamide were synthesized by a combination of ring-opening polymerization and the sequential atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP). The copolymer composition, chemical structure, and the self-assembled structure were characterized. The graft length and density of the copolymers were well controlled by varying the feed ratio of monomer to initiator and the fraction of chlorides along PCL backbone, which is acting as the macroinitiator for ATRP. In aqueous solution, PCL-g-PNIPAAm can assemble into the spherical micelles which comprise of the biodegradable hydrophobic PCL core and thermoresponsive hydrophilic PNIPAAm corona. The critical micelle concentrations of PCL-g-PNIPAAm were determined under the range of 6.4–23.4 mg/L, which increases with the PNIPAAm content increasing. The mean hydrodynamic diameters of PCL-g-PNIPAAm micelles depend strongly on the graft length and density of the PNIPAAm segment, allowing to tune the particle size within a wide range. Additionally, the PCL-g-PNIPAAm micelles exhibit thermosensitive properties and aggregate when the temperature is above the lower critical solution temperature. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2014, 131, 41115.