Simulation guided design of globular single-chain nanoparticles by tuning the solvent quality
The control of primary and further structures of individual folded/collapsed synthetic polymers has received significant attention in recent years. However, the synthesis of single-chain nanoparticles (SCNPs) showing a compact, globular conformation in solution has turned out so far to be highly elusive. By means of simulations, we propose two methods for obtaining globular SCNPs in solution. The first synthesis route is performed in the bad solvent, with the precursor anchored to a surface. In the second route we use a random copolymer precursor with unreactive solvophilic and reactive solvophobic units, which form a single core–shell structure. Both protocols prevent intermolecular cross-linking. After recovering good solvent conditions, the swollen nanoparticles maintain their globular character. The proposed methods are experimentally realizable and do not require specific sequence control of the precursors. Our results pave the way for the synthesis via solvent-assisted design of a new generation of globular soft nanoparticles mimicking global conformations of native proteins in solution.