A versatile strategy for uniform hybrid nanoparticles and nanocapsules†
A viable strategy for uniform organo-silica hybrid nanoparticles and nanocapsules was developed. The key to our strategy is the implementation of spherical star-like homopolymers and diblock copolymers with well-controlled molecular weights that form unimolecular micelles in solution as nanoreactors. Organo-silica hybrid nanoparticles were crafted by introducing trimethoxysilyl functionalities to the arm of star-like homopolymers. Quite intriguingly, organo-silica hybrid nanocapsules with an interior cavity were created when the trimethoxysilyl moieties were incorporated into the outer block of star-like diblock copolymers. The diameter of hybrid nanoparticles and the shell thickness of hybrid nanocapsules can be readily tailored via the living polymerization of star-like homopolymer and diblock copolymer nanoreactors, respectively. These hybrid nanoparticles and nanocapsules may find promising applications in polymer nanocomposites, water purification, separation, catalysis, and drug delivery. We envision that the nanoreactor strategy is general and robust. By rationally designing nonlinear yet structurally regular polymers possessing metal-containing units, other exotic metal- and metal oxide-containing nanostructures can also be easily accessed for a variety of applications.