Supramolecular and block (co-)polymers in a different light
Polymers are an ubiquitous building block for hierarchically structured materials. We use co-assembly of supramolecular and ionic-neutral (co-)polymers as a tool to engineer complex functional and responsive superstructures. We also investigate how supramolecular polymers form, how they disintegrate, how we can tune their size, shape, flexibility, abundance, and how we can control their self-organization into single chain polymeric nanoparticles (SCPNs), bundles and (hydro)gels.
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- Complex coacervation is the electrostatically driven, liquid–liquid phase separation that occurs when two aqueous solutions of oppositely charged polyelectrolytes are mixed. Attaching a neutral hydrophilic polymer block to one or both of the polyelectrolytes leads to microphase separation and the formation of micelles, with a complex coacervate core, surrounded by a water-soluble neutral corona. Hence, complex coacervate core micelles (C3Ms) are structures co-assembled in aqueous solutions through electrostatic interactions. This makes them responsive to changes in their environment such as pH, ionic strength, and temperature. These properties render C3Ms applicable for use as multimodal imaging contrast agents, nanogels,  nanoreactors, and encapsulation agents. We study their formation conditions, effect of the composition on the co-assembly and their response to stimuli to get a better understanding of how we can use C3Ms to formulate new functional self-organizing materials.
- Biomimetic polymer materials
- Polyurethane ionomers
- Polyelectrolyte assembly
- Conjugated polyelectrolytes
- Supramolecular polymers
- Single chain polymeric nanoparticles (SCPNs)
- Protein liquids
Many biomaterials, like proteins and nucleic acids, have a highly controlled monomer sequence that is essential for their function. Nature has created smart mechanisms to ensure control of their sequences. For man-made materials like polymers however, we generally obtain polydisperse products with a variety of lengths and monomer sequences. Recently, a few synthesis routes towards sequence-controlled polymers were established. We design, create and study the properties of these controlled materials, in order to understand the effect of the sequence on their performance. These results could allow us to design polymers for industrial applications that display the desired functionality more efficiently.
- Scattering tools to probe copolymer assembly