Reversible addition–fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) dispersion polymerization of benzyl methacrylate is used to prepare a series of well-defined poly(stearyl methacrylate)–poly(benzyl methacrylate) (PSMA–PBzMA) diblock copolymer nanoparticles in mineral oil at 90 °C. A relatively long PSMA54 precursor acts as a steric stabilizer block and also ensures that only kinetically trapped spheres are obtained, regardless of the target degree of polymerization (DP) for the core-forming PBzMA block. This polymerization-induced self-assembly (PISA) formulation provides good control over the particle size distribution over a wide size range (24–459 nm diameter). 1H NMR spectroscopy studies confirm that high monomer conversions (≥96%) are obtained for all PISA syntheses while transmission electron microscopy and dynamic light scattering analyses show well-defined spheres with a power-law relationship between the target PBzMA DP and the mean particle diameter. Gel permeation chromatography studies indicate a gradual loss of control over the molecular weight distribution as higher DPs are targeted, but well-defined morphologies and narrow particle size distributions can be obtained for PBzMA DPs up to 3500, which corresponds to an upper particle size limit of 459 nm. Thus, these are among the largest well-defined spheres with reasonably narrow size distributions (standard deviation ≤20%) produced by any PISA formulation. Such large spheres serve as model sterically stabilized particles for analytical centrifugation studies.
Bibliographical noteFunding: S.P.A. thanks EPSRC for a four-year Established Career Particle
Technology Fellowship (EP/J003009/1). M.J.D. and S.P.A.
thank the Leverhulme Trust for a postdoctoral fellowship
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