Deepening the insight into poly(butylene oxide)-block-poly(glycidol) synthesis and self-assemblies: micelles, worms and vesicles†
Aqueous self-assembly of amphiphilic block copolymers is studied extensively for biomedical applications like drug delivery and nanoreactors. The commonly used hydrophilic block poly(ethylene oxide) (PEO), however, suffers from several drawbacks. As a potent alternative, poly(glycidol) (PG) has gained increasing interest, benefiting from its easy synthesis, high biocompatibility and flexibility as well as enhanced functionality compared to PEO. In this study, we present a quick and well-controlled synthesis of poly(butylene oxide)-block-poly(glycidol) (PBO-b-PG) amphiphilic diblock copolymers together with a straight-forward self-assembly protocol. Depending on the hydrophilic mass fraction of the copolymer, nanoscopic micelles, worms and polymersomes were formed as well as microscopic giant unilamellar vesicles. The particles were analysed regarding their size and shape, using dynamic and static light scattering, TEM and Cryo-TEM imaging as well as confocal laser scanning microscopy. We have discovered a strong dependence of the formed morphology on the self-assembly method and show that only solvent exchange leads to the formation of homogenous phases. Thus, a variety of different structures can be obtained from a highly flexible copolymer, justifying a potential use in biomedical applications.