Polyethylene nano crystalsomes formed at a curved liquid/liquid interface
Crystallization is incommensurate with nanoscale curved space due to the lack of three dimensional translational symmetry of the latter. Herein, we report the formation of single-crystal-like, nanosized polyethylene (PE) capsules using a miniemulsion solution crystallization method. The miniemulsion was formed at elevated temperatures using PE organic solution as the oil phase and sodium dodecyl sulfate as the surfactant. Subsequently, cooling the system stepwisely for controlled crystallization led to the formation of hollow, nanosized PE crystalline capsules, which are named as crystalsomes since they mimic the classical self-assembled structures such as liposome, polymersome and colloidosome. We show that the formation of the nanosized PE crystalsomes is driven by controlled crystallization at the curved liquid/liquid interface of the miniemulson droplet. The morphology, structure and mechanical properties of the PE crystalsomes were characterized using scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, and atomic force spectroscopy. Electron diffraction showed the single-crystal-like nature of the crystalsomes. The incommensurateness between the nanocurved interface and the crystalline packing led to reduced crystallinity and crystallite size of the PE crystalsome, as observed from the X-ray diffraction measurements. Moreover, directly quenching the emulsion below the spinodal line led to the formation of hierarchical porous PE crystalsomes due to the coupling of the PE crystallization and liquid/liquid phase separation. We anticipate that this unique crystalsome represents a new type of nanostructure that might be used as nanodrug carriers and ultrasound contrast agents.