Laponite®-based colloidal nanocomposites prepared by RAFT-mediated surfactant-free emulsion polymerization: the role of non-ionic and anionic macroRAFT polymers in stability and morphology control†
The synthesis of Laponite®-based composite latexes by reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT)-mediated surfactant-free emulsion polymerization is described. RAFT homopolymers and copolymers (macroRAFT agents) comprising acrylic acid (AA), poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) segments and n-butyl acrylate (BA) repeating units were adsorbed onto exfoliated Laponite® in aqueous dispersion, and subsequently chain extended by methyl methacrylate and BA to form colloidal nanocomposites. The high hydrophilicity of PAA macroRAFT agents led to unstable latexes as polymerization took place mainly in the aqueous phase. Differently, PEG-based RAFT copolymers adsorbed more strongly onto Laponite® and favored morphology control. The free macroRAFT chains engaged preferably in the stabilization of the hybrid structures, rather than in the formation of free latex particles, resulting primarily in a Janus morphology. The presence of BA units in the macroRAFT structure helped further in confining the polymerization on the clay surface and enabled the morphology of the particles to be tuned resulting in the formation of dumbbell or sandwich-like structures. These results show that the parameters driving the competing mechanisms related to the polymerization locus, such as the presence of free macroRAFTs, the affinity between macroRAFTs and clay and the adequate hydrophilic–hydrophobic balance within the macroRAFT structure, are key for assuring both the stabilization of the nanocomposite particles and the control of their morphology.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Polymerization-Induced Self-Assembly (PISA)