Spontaneous unilamellar polymer vesicles in aqueous solution†
A unilamellar polymeric vesicle is a self-assembled structure of a block copolymer that forms a spherical single bilayer structure with a hydrophobic interlayer and a hydrophilic surface. Due to their enhanced colloidal stability and mechanical property, controllable surface functionality, or tunable membrane thickness, polymeric vesicles are useful in nano and bio-science, providing potential applications as nanosized carriers for catalysts, drugs, and enzymes. For fabrication of a unilamellar vesicle, however, preparative procedures with a few steps are inherently required. Herein, without complicated preparative procedures, we report spontaneous unilamellar polymeric vesicles with nanometer sizes (<100 nm), which are prepared by simply mixing a triblock copolymer, Pluronic P85 (PEO26PPO40PEO26), and an organic derivative, 5-methyl salicylic acid (5mS), in aqueous solution. Depending on the 5mS concentration and the temperature, the P85–5mS mixtures presented various self-assembled nanostructures such as spherical and cylindrical micelles or vesicles, which were characterized by small angle neutron scattering and cryo-TEM, resulting in a phase diagram drawn as a function of temperature and the 5mS concentration. Interestingly the critical temperature for the micelle-to-vesicle phase transition was easily controlled by varying the 5mS concentration, i.e. it was decreased with increasing the 5mS concentration.