Aggregation-free and high stability core–shell polymer nanoparticles with high fullerene loading capacity, variable fullerene type, and compatibility towards biological conditions†
Fullerenes have unique structural and electronic properties that make them attractive candidates for diagnostic, therapeutic, and theranostic applications. However, their poor water solubility remains a limiting factor in realizing their full biomedical potential. Here, we present an approach based on a combination of supramolecular and covalent chemistry to access well-defined fullerene-containing polymer nanoparticles with a core–shell structure. In this approach, solvophobic forces and aromatic interactions first come into play to afford a micellar structure with a poly(ethylene glycol) shell and a corannulene-based fullerene-rich core. Covalent stabilization of the supramolecular assembly then affords core-crosslinked polymer nanoparticles. The shell makes these nanoparticles biocompatible and allows them to be dried to a solid and redispersed in water without inducing interparticle aggregation. The core allows a high content of different fullerene types to be encapsulated. Finally, covalent stabilization endows nanostructures with stability against changing environmental conditions.