Self-Assembled Microspheres Driven by Dipole-Dipole Interactions: UCST-Type Transition in Water



A double hydrophilic block copolymer, poly(ethylene glycol)-poly(3-dimethyl (methacryloyloxyethyl) ammonium propane sulfonate) (PEG-SB), is synthesized by reversible addition-fragmentation transfer (RAFT) polymerization using PEG methyl ether (4-cyano-4-pentanoate dodecyl trithiocarbonate) as a chain transfer agent. PEG-SB forms multi-layered microspheres with dipole-dipole interactions of the SB side chains as the driving force. The PEG-SB polymers show an upper critical solution temperature (UCST) and the UCST is controllable by the polymerization degree. The PEG-SB microspheres are dissociated above the UCST and then monodispersed microspheres (∼1 μm) are obtained when the solution temperature is decreased below the UCST again. The disassociation/association of the microspheres is also controllable using the concentration of NaCl. These multi-responsive microspheres could be a powerful tool in the field of nano-biotechnology.