Crystallization is widely used by synthetic chemists as a purification technique because it usually involves the expulsion of impurities. In this context, the efficient occlusion of guest nanoparticles within growing host crystals can be regarded as a formidable technical challenge. Indeed, although there are various reports of successful nanoparticle occlusion within inorganic crystals in the literature, robust design rules remain elusive. Herein, we report the synthesis of two pairs of sterically stabilized diblock copolymer nanoparticles with identical compositions but varying particle size, morphology, stabilizer chain length, and stabilizer chain surface density via polymerization-induced self-assembly (PISA). The mean degree of polymerization of the stabilizer chains dictates the spatial distribution of these model anionic nanoparticles within calcite (CaCO3): relatively short stabilizer chains merely result in near-surface occlusion, whereas sufficiently long stabilizer chains are essential to achieve uniform occlusion. This study reconciles the various conflicting literature reports of occluded nanoparticles being either confined to surface layers or uniformly occluded throughout the host matrix and hence provides important new insights regarding the criteria required for efficient nanoparticle occlusion within inorganic crystals.
Ning, Y., Han, L., Douverne, M., Penfold, N. J. W., Derry, M. J., Meldrum, F. C., & Armes, S. P. (2019). What Dictates the Spatial Distribution of Nanoparticles within Calcite? Journal of the American Chemical Society, 141(6), 2481-2489. https://doi.org/10.1021/jacs.8b12291