The analysis of solution self-assembled polymeric nanomaterials†
There has been much interest in the construction of soft nanomaterials in solution due to a desire to emulate the exquisite structure and function of Nature's equivalents (e.g. enzymes, viruses, proteins and DNA). Nature's soft nanomaterials are capable of selectivity, precision and efficiency in areas such as information storage and replication, transportation and delivery, and synthesis and catalysis. To this end, the use of small molecules, amphiphiles, colloids, and polymers have been investigated for the development of advanced materials in myriad fields of biomedicine and synthetic chemistry. Two major challenges are faced in this area of research: the reproducible, scalable and precise synthesis of such constructs and the reliable, accurate and in-depth analysis of these materials. This tutorial review will focus on this second aspect and provide a guide for the characterisation and analysis of soft nanomaterials in solution using scattering and microscopic techniques.