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Issue 29, 2013
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Morphological transitions in polymer vesicles upon bilayer swelling with small hydrophobic molecules in water

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Abstract

We show that when unilamellar polymer vesicles dispersed in water made from a blockcopolymer, in this case poly((ethylene oxide)45-block-(methyl methacrylate)164), poly((ethylene oxide)45-block-(methyl methacrylate)170), or poly(n-butyl methacrylate)81-block-(2-(dimethylamino)ethyl methacrylate)20, are exposed to small hydrophobic molecules, here methyl methacrylate as well as n-butyl methacrylate, they can undergo morphological transitions. Upon swelling, the polymersomes lose their original simple bilayer morphology and transform into more complex coil-like and patchy colloidal structures, as investigated experimentally by cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM). Dissipative particle dynamics (DPD) simulations on a model flat bilayer indeed show that transitions can occur upon bilayer swelling, which is accompanied by a change in the mechanical bilayer properties. The transition involves the formation of water pockets in the interior regions of the bilayer. Co-existence of the various morphologies in the experiments suggests an activation barrier towards morphological changes and a possibility of multiple meta-stable states. The latter indeed is supported by the existence of multiple minima in the surface tension as a function of bilayer area, as found in the simulations.

Graphical abstract: Morphological transitions in polymer vesicles upon bilayer swelling with small hydrophobic molecules in water

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Publication details

The article was received on 16 Jan 2013, accepted on 27 Feb 2013 and first published on 18 Mar 2013


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C3SM50184A
Citation: Soft Matter, 2013,9, 6890-6896
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    Morphological transitions in polymer vesicles upon bilayer swelling with small hydrophobic molecules in water

    C. D. J. Parmenter, R. Chen, D. L. Cheung and S. A. F. Bon, Soft Matter, 2013, 9, 6890
    DOI: 10.1039/C3SM50184A

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