In situ SAXS studies of a prototypical RAFT aqueous dispersion polymerization formulation: monitoring the evolution in copolymer morphology during polymerization-induced self-assembly†
Small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) is used to characterize the in situ formation of diblock copolymer spheres, worms and vesicles during reversible addition–fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) aqueous dispersion polymerization of 2-hydroxypropyl methacrylate at 70 °C using a poly(glycerol monomethacrylate) steric stabilizer. 1H NMR spectroscopy indicates more than 99% HPMA conversion within 80 min, while transmission electron microscopy and dynamic light scattering studies are consistent with the final morphology being pure vesicles. Analysis of time-resolved SAXS patterns for this prototypical polymerization-induced self-assembly (PISA) formulation enables the evolution in copolymer morphology, particle diameter, mean aggregation number, solvent volume fraction, surface density of copolymer chains and their mean inter-chain separation distance at the nanoparticle surface to be monitored. Furthermore, the change in vesicle diameter and membrane thickness during the final stages of polymerization supports an ‘inward growth’ mechanism.