Directed assembly of functionalized nanoparticles with amphiphilic diblock copolymers†
The ability to design and fabricate highly ordered superstructures from nanoscale particles remains a major scientific and technological challenge. Patchy nanoparticles have recently emerged as a novel class of building units to construct functional materials. Using simulations of coarse-grained molecular dynamics, we propose a simple approach to achieve soft nanoparticles with a self-patchiness nature through self-assembly of tethered copolymers with a sequence of inner solvophilic and outer solvophobic blocks. As building units, the patch-like nanoparticles are directed to further assemble into a rich variety of highly ordered superstructures via condensation–coalescence mechanisms. The growth kinetics of the superstructures obeys the kinetic model of the step-growth polymerization process. Our simulations also demonstrate that the intermediate patch-like nanoparticles and the final assembled superstructures can be rationally tuned by changing the number and the composition of the tethered copolymer chains. This strategy of copolymer functionalization conceptually enables the design and fabrication of highly ordered superstructures of nanoparticle ensembles with new horizons for promising applications in soft nanotechnology and biotechnology.