Dual stimuli-responsive nano-structure transition of three-arm branched amphiphilic polymers containing ferrocene (Fc) and azobenzene (Azo) moieties in aqueous solution†
Amphiphilic polymers can self-assemble into various nanostructures in solution, which can find applications in many fields such as nanotechnology, drug delivery, and template synthesis. Herein, we report the controlled self-assembly and dual stimuli-responsive nanostructure transition of a class of three-arm branched amphiphilic polymers (AzoFcPEO) containing ferrocene (Fc) and azobenzene (Azo) moieties in aqueous solution. These amphiphilic polymers were synthesized by an esterification reaction of a variety of polyethylene oxide methyl ethers (Me-PEO) with 3-(6-ferrocenyhexyloxyl)-5-(6-azobenzenehexyloxy) benzoic acid. Both the isomerization of Azo and redox of Fc moieties can respectively change the amphiphilicity of these polymers to different degrees. Consequently, these amphiphilic polymers in aqueous solution can self-assemble into various nanostructures, such as spherical micelle, worm-like micelle, spherical compound micelle, rod-like compound micelle and vesicle dependent on the PEO molecular weight, applied stimuli, and polymer concentration. This work can offer tremendous possibilities not only for the fundamental science of the controlled self-assembly but also for establishing a suitable method for regulating the nanostructures of amphiphilic polymers in aqueous solution.