Mesoporous block-copolymer nanospheres prepared by selective swelling

Small. 2013 Jan 28;9(2):322-9. doi: 10.1002/smll.201201504. Epub 2012 Oct 9.


Block-copolymer (BCP) nanospheres with hierarchical inner structure are of great interest and importance due to their possible applications in nanotechnology and biomedical engineering. Mesoporous BCP nanospheres with multilayered inner channels are considered as potential drug-delivery systems and templates for multifunctional nanomaterials. Selective swelling is a facile pore-making strategy for BCP materials. Herein, the selective swelling-induced reconstruction of BCP nanospheres is reported. Two poly(styrene-block-2-vinylpyridine) (PS-b-P2VP) samples with different compositions (PS(23600)-b-P2VP(10400) and PS(27700)-b-P2VP(4300)) are used as model systems. The swelling reconstruction of PS-b-P2VP in ethanol, 1-pyrenebutyric acid (PBA)/ethanol, or HCl/ethanol (pH = 2.61) is characterized by scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy. It is observed that the length of the swellable block in BCP is a critical factor in determining the behavior and nanostructures of mesoporous BCP nanospheres in selective swelling. Moreover, it is demonstrated that the addition of PBA modifies the swelling structure of PS(23600)-b-P2VP(10400) through the interaction between PBA and P2VP blocks, which results in BCP nanospheres with patterned pores of controllable size. The patterned pores can be reversibly closed by annealing the mesoporous BCP nanospheres in different selective solvents. The controllable and reversible open/closed reconstruction of BCP nanospheres can be used to enclose functional nanoparticles or drugs inside the nanospheres. These mesoporous BCP nanospheres are further decorated with gold nanoparticles by UV photoreduction. The enlarged decoration area in mesoporous BCP nanospheres will enhance their activity and sensitivity as a catalyst and electrochemical sensor.