Polymer Nanostructures through Photopolymerization
Kinetics and Moleuclar Self-assembly
Control of matter on the
atomic scale has greatly increased the performance of
many useful products including microprocessors,
electronic displays, and semiconductors to name a few.
The improved performance of these products originates
from material properties dependent on submicron order.
Polymers with nanometer size structures are generating
significant research interest due to their potential
application in areas including tissue engineering,
controlled release, catalysis, and size-selective
separation media. The periodic nanostructures of these
polymers can greatly improve properties useful in many
advanced biological and industrial applications. Our
research utilizes photopolymerization kinetics and
self-assembling lyotropic liquid crystals (LLCs) to
direct polymer structure on the nanometer scale (Figure
1). The goal is to control polymer nanostructure by
optimizing the polymerization speed and environment in
which polymerization occurs in order to optimize
material properties dependent on submicron order.
Figure 1: Diagram
showing the process used to synthesize nanostructured
polymers from self-assembled LLC templates.
Clockwise from bottom left: hexagonal and lamellar LLC
structures with nanometer scale dimensions,
cross-section of the hexagonal LLC structure, hexagonal
LLC structure dispersed with two monomers, and
photopolymerized monomers with hexagonal nanostructure
after the LLC template is removed.