Silica encapsulation by miniemulsion polymerization: distribution and localization of the silica particles in droplets and latex particles

Langmuir. 2012 Apr 10;28(14):6021-31. doi: 10.1021/la300587b. Epub 2012 Mar 28.


The impact of including hydrophobically modified silica on the morphology of miniemulsified monomer mixtures and that of the resulting polymer particles was investigated, with emphasis placed on the distribution and localization of the inorganic phase. Silica nanoparticles with diameters of 20 and 78 nm were first modified with γ-methacryloxypropyl trimethoxysilane (γ-MPS) to favor their dispersion in methyl methacrylate (MMA)/n-butyl acrylate (BuA) and mixtures of varying MMA to BuA weight ratios. The monomer-silica dispersions were then emulsified by ultrasonication, and the resulting silica-loaded droplets were examined using cryo-transmission electron microscopy (cryo-TEM). This represents the first time such silica-loaded nanodroplets were examined in this way. The results of the cryo-TEM show that whereas the silica particles could easily be dispersed in MMA or a mixture of MMA and BuA to produce stable dispersions, the emulsification step promotes the (re)localization of the silica at the oil-water interfaces. It was also shown that not all droplets are equal; some droplets and particles contain no silica whereas others contain many silica particles. After the subsequent polymerization step, the silica was buried inside the latex particles.